UI admin cite leadership transition, pandemic turmoil in forgoing searches

In appointing the University of Iowa’s executive vice president and provost, executive officer for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and dean of the liberal arts college, UI administrators, including Bruce Harreld, wanted continued stability across administrative roles.

University+of+Iowa+President+Bruce+Harreld+talks+with+members+of+the+Daily+Iowan+during+an+interview+at+the+Adler+Journalism+Building+on+Thursday%2C+Feb.+13%2C+2020.+President+Harreld+has+been+the+president+at+the+university+since+November+2%2C+2015.+

Ryan Adams

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld talks with members of the Daily Iowan during an interview at the Adler Journalism Building on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. President Harreld has been the president at the university since November 2, 2015.

Sarah Watson, Executive Editor


In requesting the University of Iowa to waive searches and allow the appointment of internal candidates to permanent positions, UI administrators cited several reasons, including ongoing pandemic turbulence and a transition to a new president.

In documents filed in January requesting to waive the traditional search for the position of provost and executive vice president, UI President Bruce Harreld cited pandemic instability as a reason to waive the search for the second-in-command position. Harreld acknowledged that “several of the sitting deans may possess these qualifications, although perhaps not as clearly as does Professor Kregel.”

Pursuing an internal search, however, would “subject the university unnecessarily to further instability in two respects.”

First, Harreld points out that a search process would require several months, which would place more uncertainty “during a period of university transition and a global pandemic.”

Plus, “the process itself would pit sitting leaders against one another at the very time their collaboration is so urgently needed to advance the institution toward its goals,” Harreld wrote.

Second, those who would be the best fit for the position are “sorely needed in their current roles to maintain stability in the colleges,” Harreld wrote. “They should be neither diverted nor distracted from their current roles.”

After a nationwide search to replace P. Barry Butler launched in 2017, the UI filled the role of provost with Montse Fuentes, who started at the UI in June 2019. After less than a year, Fuentes stepped down from her position this summer and took a reassignment as a special assistant to the president. She has continued her role with a $439,000 salary, and will start as president of liberal-arts university St. Edward’s in Austin, Texas, July 1.

Harreld appointed Kregel as interim provost after Fuentes stepped down.

At the UI, searches are conducted for professional and scientific staff members that are working more than half-time and who will be appointed for longer than a year.

The UI’s search guidelines must comply with state, federal, and university guidelines for equal opportunity in employment and affirmative action, which is why the University of Iowa’s faculty recruitment handbook notes that “deviations from these standard search procedures are therefore strongly discouraged.”

In the letter outlining his wanting to appoint Kregel as permanent provost, Harreld wrote that Kregel’s academic and administrative demonstrated experience demonstrated he would be “uniquely qualified” to lead the institution as provost.

Some reasons to waive searches, according to the manual, would include:

  • A current professional and scientific staff member’s position was cut because of a reduction in work force.
  • A current staffer develops a disability that makes their position no longer feasible.
  • The applicant’s spouse is pursuing a position in another department, and so qualifies as a “dual career” partner.
  • A state or federal grant or contract requires a particular person
  • The position would only exist if one person with unique education training and experience is available and interested

The reasoning UI administrators used in requesting to waive each of the searches for provost, head diversity, equity, and inclusion officer, and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was that the candidates had “unique qualifications and expertise.”

“The applicant’s unique qualifications and expertise are such that no other applicant would be expected to surpass this individual’s qualifications for the position,” according to the handbook. “Typically, the applicant would need to be nationally or internationally renowned in his/her field to meet this criterion.”

Diversity, equity, and inclusion hire

Kregel appointed Liz Tovar in January to chief executive officer of diversity, equity, and inclusion reporting to both the provost and president. That’s a change from when she was interim, when the reporting structure, according to the university’s organizational chart, reported exclusively to the provost, a departure from previous years.

A search launched after TaJuan Wilson’s resignation from the position in August 2019. That nationwide search, extended by the pandemic, ended in October after Harreld announced his retirement because candidates withdrew their names for consideration.

In the search waiver request to appoint Tovar to her permanent position, Kregel alluded to the ongoing presidential search for reason for the early end to the search and the need for permanent leadership sooner.

“Given the current environment, it is vital to have a strong, effective campus leader to

provide guidance on diversity, equity, and inclusion; and one who understands both the

challenges and opportunities our campus faces,” Kregel wrote.

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Sara Sanders

Now-permanent College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Sara Sanders was appointed interim in July 2020 after her predecessor, Steve Goddard left following a violation of a UI employee ethics policy.

In requesting to waive the search in March, Kregel wrote that Sara Sanders had demonstrated her expertise for the role as an interim, especially during times of racial justice demonstrations and unrest.

“Dr. Sanders’s experience at the University of Iowa and in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, her academic qualifications, and her demonstrated leadership and management skills position her to be exceptionally successful in this role,” Kregel wrote.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with the correct spelling of former Provost P. Barry Butler’s name. It is P. Barry Butler, not Parry Butler. The DI regrets the error. 

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