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Search for leader still up in the air

UI official expects president to be named this week

Brian Morelli

Iowa City Press-Citizen

December 5, 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.]

A 90-minute closed session Monday by the Iowa state Board of Regents revealed little news, including the status of the search to find a new University of Iowa president.

Regent President Michael Gartner said before the telephonic session that the board would be discussing the finalists. In a brief update afterward, he called it a "productive session" but said there was no announcement beyond that.

Faculty Senate President Sheldon Kurtz, who did not participate in the closed meeting, said his interpretation was that regents had homed in on a particular candidate. Kurtz said he expected a president to be named by the end of the week but noted the board is unpredictable.

"As always, I am mystified by the Iowa Board of Regents," Kurtz said.

Gartner and board executive director Gary Steinke did not return messages.

This was the first regent meeting since Nov. 17, when the board voted 6-2 to reject four finalists and dissolve the search committee that recommended them, which infuriated many on campus. UI has been without a permanent president since David Skorton left to become president of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., last summer. The seven-month, $195,000 search has been plagued with secrecy and controversy.

The vote to enter into a closed session Monday was not unanimous.

Regent Bob Downer opposed the move, saying the meeting should be an open discussion if reconsideration of the four finalists was the topic. Afterward, Downer said the closed session was appropriate considering what was discussed, and he also agreed that it was a positive and productive meeting.

Downer said he expects to hear by mid-week if there will be a second similar meeting. The regents will formally meet Monday for a board meeting in Iowa City.

Downer said Gov. Tom Vilsack e-mailed him Sunday, urging the regents to reconsider the four candidates and reinstall the vice president for health sciences position.

Vilsack stepped into the controversy on Nov. 27, one day before no-confidence votes were scheduled for student and faculty governments. The students and faculty governments postponed the votes, but said the issue could be revisited.

Those groups, along with the staff council, had said they would proceed with the no-confidence votes if regent leadership -- Gartner and Regent President Pro Tem Teresa Wahlert -- weren't changed.

At least two of the finalists have expressed concern over the controversial search process. UI Provost Michael Hogan, the only confirmed finalist, remains interested in the job. Two of the other candidates are provosts at large universities and the fourth is the president of a mid-sized college.