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Statement on the Resolution of No Confidence in the Leadership of the Board of Regents

Richard Hurtig, Chair of the Faculty Assembly

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

December 13, 2006

These are trying times. The University of Iowa’s presidential search has failed and we are faced with the absence of civil and collegial relationships between the leadership of the Iowa Board of Regents and the university community.

As a young faculty member I was told that the responsibility of faculty members could be likened to a three legged stool. If I wasn’t diligent and made sure that I had an appropriate balance of teaching, research and service the stool would topple. What happens on campus day in and day out can by no stretch of the imagination be considered to be failing. The University of Iowa and in particular the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences is serving the citizens of the state of Iowa. We are teaching an ever increasing number of students with fewer faculty members, we continue to be highly successful in attracting extra-mural funding to support our scholarly and creative work, and we perform an ever increasing set of service and outreach activities on campus and around the state.

The success of the university is in large part due to a long tradition of collegiality that binds the faculty, students and staff to our core missions. The University of Iowa is one of reasons the United States continues to be seen round the world as the model for higher education. Businesses, driven by venture capital, may have outsourced both manufacturing and service jobs, but American universities continue to attract students from around the world. Our model of public higher education is one of the few remaining things for which we are respected world wide.

When I step out in front of my undergraduate class, I see an ever increasing diversity of students from every corner of both Iowa and the globe. When I step across the street to do some of my research at UIHC, I see an ever increasing diversity of patients. I do research that requires a big team and lots of extra-mural grant support. That support not only pays a lot of salaries but it supports a lot of students. Without federal grant support we would be a much smaller and less significant institution that would be in poorer shape to educate and serve the citizens of Iowa. Iowa has a strong tradition of active collaboration that attracts scholars and the grant support. We must be doing something right!

We are a public university and have enjoyed the support and trust of the citizens of Iowa. There have been times when state budgetary constraints have left us thinking that we were more a state abandoned university than a state supported university. We have endured many budget cuts and nevertheless continued to strive for excellence. Through out all of those tough times the one thing we could count on was strong advocacy by the Board of Regents.

When we disagreed with some Board decisions, as we did in the early 90’s over the classroom content policy, we were able to have collegial and civil discussions with the members of the Board and its leaders. It was that healthy bidirectional communication and their acceptance of the concept of joint governance that allowed us to resolve our differences and preserve the principle of academic freedom. I served on an earlier presidential search committee and chaired the search for the Superintendent of the Iowa School for the Deaf. In both those experiences I was impressed by the respect that the Board had for the institutions and their faculty and staff. Ultimately the final hiring decisions rest with the Board, but they recognized the talent and effort that the campuses could provide in aiding their decision making. Those searches generated leaders that earned the respect of the campuses and who could function effectively with the Board of Regents.

Today we find ourselves in a very different situation. By their actions the leadership of the Board of Regents has thrown aside the long tradition of collegial relationships with the faculty, staff and students. You have by now heard or read about the incivility with which some of the most respected members of our community have been treated. The Board’s leadership treated the campus co-chairs of the search committee most shabbily even though they and the others on the search committee did their due diligence and generated what we have been told was an excellent list of finalists. We owe our colleagues on the search committee our deepest thanks for their efforts on our behalf.

We have before us a resolution of no confidence in the leadership of the Board of Regents. This resolution does not come to you because the Board leadership treated our colleagues shabbily or because the presidential search failed. We collectively have thick skins and we understand that searches may fail. Senate President Kurtz presented a very cogent argument in support of the resolution in his remarks to the Faculty Senate yesterday.

This resolution comes to you because the actions of the Board leadership are at odds with what Senate President Kurtz identified as their ‘duty of care’ to the Regents institutions and the citizens of the State of Iowa. Here are some failures to meet their duty of care that are of particular concern to me

    * When the Board leadership sets out an agenda that is based on 0% support from the state, they fail in their duty to preserve public higher education.
    * When the Board leadership does not see the need for their advocacy of our core teaching, research and service missions they fail in their duty to preserve public higher education.
    * When the Board leadership treats UIHC as merely a cost center, they fail in their duty to assure that Iowans have the best tertiary care possible and in their duty to public medical education.
    * When the Board leadership refuses to engage in open discussions on policy matters, they may not only be in violation of the Iowa Open Meetings statutes, but they deny Iowans the opportunity to have a voice in the shaping of higher education in Iowa.
    * When the Board leadership excludes others on the Board of Regents who may hold differing views from participation in discussions, they usurp the full Board’s role in the shaping of higher education in Iowa.

Because of the Board leadership’s failure to meet its duty of care, I bring a no-confidence resolution to the CLAS Faculty Assembly. For the sake of the health of The University of Iowa and of higher education in Iowa, it is essential that we have leadership at the Board of Regents that is committed to public higher education and that can effectively advocate for it. In the end, the quality of the university is determined by the collective efforts of its faculty, staff and students. A good employer should recognize the talents in the workforce, the value of their work, their commitment to the institution and the insight that comes from years of experience. It is unclear that the Board leadership holds that view.

The faculty, staff and students who care for this institution are not a ‘radical minority.’ The university community stands together in it’s commitment to quality public higher education. In the absence of respect and trust little can be accomplished under the current leadership of the Board of Regents.

The resolution before you is motivated by the conviction that a change in the Board leadership is essential to accomplish the interrelated goals of finding and retaining an outstanding president to lead this institution and restoring a functional governance structure within the Board of Regents and between the Regents and the institutions they oversee.


Resolution of No Confidence in the Leadership of the Board of Regents
For consideration by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Faculty Assembly 12/13/06

WHEREAS, the University of Iowa Faculty recognize that the Board of Regents has the statutory responsibility to govern the University and appoint our president, and

WHEREAS, the Board’s leadership owes the people of the State of Iowa a duty of care in carrying out their statutory responsibilities, and

WHEREAS, this duty of care obligates the Board’s leadership to take reasonable care in acting in the best interests of public higher education and the people of Iowa, and

WHEREAS, The Board of Regents’ leadership has repeatedly breached the duty of care they owe to Iowans,

NOW THEREFORE, the Faculty Assembly of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at The University of Iowa expresses its lack of trust and confidence in the leadership of the Iowa Board of Regents.