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News release from UI search committee members

Ask not why the search failed, ask why the Board of Regents failed the search

Francois Abboud and Katherine Tachau

Iowa City Press-Citizen

December 10, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by the Press-Citizen, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Iowa City Press-Citizen.]

University of Iowa students, faculty and staff are planning a no-confidence vote in the leadership of the Board of Regents. This is an act of loyalty and commitment to the University of Iowa and to the state of Iowa necessitated by a series of destructive actions such as the abuse of the spirit and perhaps the letter of the open meetings law; the use of an inappropriate criterion to reject candidates; and the betrayal of the search committee's recommendations on meritorious candidates. These actions can be traced to a leadership that is autocratic in style and marked by demagoguery, recurring conflicts, failure to consult, and a strong imposition of personal views, all leading to a dysfunctional board.

This pattern of misguided leadership culminated in the failed search, the waste of an enormous amount of energy, time and money, and discredit to the outstanding reputation of our University and State on a national scale and in the eyes of academia. Iowa deserves much better than that. We have to change the leadership of the Board before a new search can move forward for the following reasons:

1. A devastating blow to our principles and values was the regents' rejection of the four outstanding candidates and the dismissal of the Search Committee on November 17. The rejection came abruptly despite overwhelming support of the 19-member Search Committee (which included four of the nine Board of Regents members) and an Advisory Committee of 11 members. This was an unbelievable action that poisoned the atmosphere and caused candidates to withdraw or fail to accept the position due to the damaging national publicity. By damaging the reputation of the University the Board has failed in its duty of care. The Board leaders have to be accountable for such harm.

2. The four Regents on the Search Committee obviously changed their votes on the finalists between November 14 and November 17 (72 hours). This represents a breaking of trust and betrayal of the Search Committee.

3. The failure was not in the Search Committee recommendations. The Board of Regents failed the search by using a criterion to reject the four candidates that the committee never made nor advertised as a requirement and, in fact, only represented ten points of 180 in the overall evaluation and scoring of the candidates. In light of Affirmative Action rules we follow at the University, we think it's possible this may have been an illegal reason to disqualify someone. There must therefore be an inquiry into the reason for the rejection before any other search is started.

4. The Board of Regents clearly did not carry out the agreement that was obtained in a meeting with the Governor on November 27 in Cedar Rapids. The leader of the Board of Regents promised to recruit a president from among the four recommended candidates. Wisdom might have dictated that the four would have been invited for on-campus interviews at this time to allow additional input from various constituencies before the Board of Regents would make their selection. Instead, the Board persisted in their mode of secrecy and decided to go for only one of the candidates. An inquiry into what procedures were followed during that meeting would be appropriate.

It is reported that this candidate declined for personal and family reasons. In contrast, reliable information indicates that his well-publicized earlier rejection along with the three other candidates on November 17, the continued mistrust of the Board of Regents on campus, their track record of top-down management, their internal conflicts and dysfunction were important factors that led to his consideration of positions at two other institutions since November 17.

For all these reasons we strongly believe that the vote of no-confidence has to be the first step in bringing about the resignation of the leadership of the Board of Regents. Once that happens, then and only then might we hope for a successful search.


Francois Abboud, Edith King Pearson Chair in Cardiovascular Research; Vice-Chair, UI Presidential Search Committee

Katherine Tachau, Professor of History; Vice-Chair, UI Presidential Search Committee