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Profs call for regent change

Bryce Bauer

The Daily Iowan

December 11, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by The Daily Iowan, 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 Daily Iowan.]

With the relationships between the members of the former UI presidential-search committee and the state Board of Regents rapidly deteriorating, university and community leaders are renewing their calls to oust two controversial regents.

"We are looking for somebody other than Michael Gartner and Teresa Wahlert, somebody who believes in open meetings and the public's right to know," said Katherine Tachau, a UI history professor who served as a vice chairwoman on the now-disbanded search panel.

Tachau, in tandem with UI medicine professor and former committee co-head François Abboud, released a statement early on Dec. 9 calling for the leadership change and outlining a slew of complaints about how the search committee was operated.

The announcement came on the heels of a similar resolution adopted by the Johnson County Democratic Central Committee on Dec. 7, which called on Gov. Tom Vilsack to "immediately demand the resignation of [Regent] President Michael Gartner and President Pro Tem Teresa Wahlert."

Tachau said that while she has not been in contact with Vilsack recently, she had previously shared her concerns about regent leadership with the governor - who makes appointments to the board - and that, at the time, Vilsack understood the faculty's general apprehensions.

Gov.-elect Chet Culver, who will take office in January, will play an integral role in shaping the board when he replaces three regents whose terms expire in 2007 - a trio that includes Wahlert. Tachau said individuals connected with the process had also shared concerns with some of Culver's staff.

When asked about Abboud's and Tachau's calls for his resignation, Gartner on Sunday said the UI scholars did not have the power to change the regents' leadership, and he noted that his term lasts until 2011.

On Nov. 17, regents voted 6-2 to disband the search panel and reject the four candidates recommended by the panel, who all received "almost unanimous support" from the committee, Abboud said.

A timeline for the creation of a new search committee has not yet been established, Gartner said Sunday, but he said he expected regents, who will meet today in Iowa City, to schedule a future meeting to discuss the search.

"We will get it moving as soon as we can," he said, adding that the new committee's makeup could differ from that of the previous one.

But Tachau remained stern, saying she did not feel the search process could continue without the changes, although she wasn't convinced such qualms would deter the regents from trying.

Abboud also envisioned changes to the way the committee was operated.

"It might be very well advisable to set up a search committee made up mainly of faculty, staff, students, and alumni - but not necessarily have any regents on it," he said.