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UI search surprises many;

The Regents' Decision to Reject All Four Presidential Candidates Has Stunned More Than Those in the UI Community

Ben Fornell

The Daily Iowan

November 30, 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.]

Officials at other Big Ten universities and UI peer institutions say they are surprised at the state Board of Regents' Nov. 17 decision to reject all four finalists from the UI presidential-search committee.

University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Provost Bernadette Gray-Little said such a move was likely to create "discord" among regents and UI faculty.

"To have a recommendation from a search committee brought to the board to be dismissed would be very disruptive" to a university community, she said on Wednesday.

North Carolina designs its search committees similar to those at the UI, and she said the wholesale rejection of a group of candidates would be "hard to imagine."

The North Carolina school is considered a peer institution of the UI and has a similar Board of Trustees.

One member of the Faculty Council at a Big Ten school said he feels the process of selecting a new president ought not to be so exclusive.

David Biesboer, a professor of plant biology at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, said he has kept abreast of the developments with the UI presidential search and feels that the process was too insular.

"As a Faculty Council member, I would expect to be very, very well informed at all times as to what's going on with a presidential search," he said, adding that presidential searches, in general, are too secretive. "We expect universities to be the last bastions of the freedom of information."

Biesboer noted that a major factor in selecting a modern university president is the candidate's ability to "really be adept at public-private partnerships," emphasizing the leader's role in extracting financial support from local business.

But some officials with regents in other states familiar with major presidential searches say the process should be given as much time as it needs.

"It's too important a decision to make unless the members [of the Board of Regents] are absolutely sure," said Anne Baron, a spokeswoman and coordinator for the Arizona Board of Regents, which recently conducted a search for a president at the University of Arizona. "It's the most important decision the regents make."

Baron added that the UI presidential search was conducted in the "traditional way a public Board of Regents would go about a search."

She also said that, ultimately, a more thorough search process will yield a better candidate.

"You've got a long history. What's a few more months?"