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Fethke to meet with deans, regents

Gathering raises concerns for some

Brian Morelli

Iowa City Press-Citizen

December 1, 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 interim president Gary Fethke is scheduled to meet with several deans and possibly four regents, including Iowa state Board of Regents President Michael Gartner, today at the president's mansion.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss issues surrounding the aborted UI president search and last Monday's meeting with Gov. Tom Vilsack.

Some described today's meeting between regents and deans as unusual, and others are concerned by it. Regent Amir Arbisser of Davenport, however, said the meeting is no different than regents meeting with any other constituencies.

"We are just communicating with folks on campus to hear thoughts about the current dilemma," he said. "We are volunteer citizens serving on this board and we are accessible to all different constituencies on matters of our universities."

Arbisser and regent Ruth Harkin of Cumming are expected to attend along with Gartner.

Regent Bob Downer of Iowa City said he likely will attend. Downer said the scenario of regents meeting with deans as a block is unusual.

"I am not aware of one similar to it that has occurred," Downer said. "But these are certainly unusual times."

Regents recently voted 6 to 2 to stop a seven-month search to replace David Skorton, who was named president of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., last summer. The regents' decision has caused frustration and uncertainty on campus.

On Monday, Vilsack stepped in to mediate the rift between campus groups, such as faculty, student and staff governments, and regent leaders. The governor's involvement calmed tempers and renewed campus confidence that a positive outcome could still come from the presidential search.

However, news of today's meeting surprised and concerned some on campus.

"I first learned of this through an anonymous e-mail that I received this morning," said Faculty Senate President Sheldon Kurtz. "I do not know the purpose of the meeting, but would be quite concerned if it would be an attempt to interfere in the entire (Board of Regent) role in the selection of the next president of UI."

Arbisser said meeting with deans is no different than unpublished private meetings with faculty to hear their concerns.

"There is so much discomfort and mistrust that people will jump to conclusions without information," Arbisser said.

Fethke declined to comment, and Gartner did not return a phone message. A call to Vilsack's spokesperson also was not returned.