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Faculty keeping day open

Search meeting may be Tues.

Brian Morelli

Iowa City Press-Citizen

December 6, 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 Faculty Senate President Sheldon Kurtz asked faculty members to keep Tuesday open for a possible special meeting that is dependant on the status of the UI president search, he wrote in an e-mail to campus.

The meeting hinges on progress on two fronts: finding a permanent UI president and changing the governance structure of the Iowa state Board of Regents, Kurtz said in a phone interview.

Following a regent telephone meeting that was closed to the public Monday, Kurtz said it was his interpretation that a preferred candidate had been selected and a president would be named by Saturday.

In his e-mail to campus Tuesday morning, Kurtz said he is still optimistic that would happen

"Of course, optimism is not a guarantee," he wrote.

Regent Executive Director Gary Steinke said candidate names and qualifications were discussed Monday, but he said he could not elaborate. The closed meeting was protected by the Iowa Open Meetings laws because it dealt with a personnel matter.

The search to replace David Skorton, who was named president of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. on July 1, has been long and contentious. The seven-month, nearly $200,000 search skidded to a halt Nov. 17 when regents voted 6-2 to reject four finalists and dissolve the search committee that recommended them.

Since then, there has been no evident progress or resolution, and hostility on campus toward regent leaders remains.

The special faculty session would come one day after the regent board gathers in Iowa City for a regularly scheduled meeting. Although Kurtz would not say what the purpose of the Faculty Senate session might be, faculty members could revisit their vote of no confidence if, in their view, adequate progress has not been made.

The Faculty Senate postponed its no confidence vote last week after Gov. Tom Vilsack met with regent leaders. Kurtz had said faculty would move on the vote if the regent leadership -- board President Michael Gartner and president pro tem Teresa Wahlert -- didn't change. Gartner was reportedly upset that his preferred candidate, Deborah Freund, former Vice Chancellor and Provost for Academic Affairs at Syracuse University, did not make the list of finalists and so he pushed to abort the search. Wahlert served as chairperson on the search committee.

UI Staff Council, meanwhile, is scheduled to meet Dec. 13. Council president Mary Greer has said staff would postpone its no confidence vote, which had been scheduled for that date, and revisit it in January. She said, however, that there is some interest in revisiting the vote sooner rather than later.

"I have no plans at this point, but that would be an excellent opportunity to make that motion," Greer said of initiating the vote. "The vote of no confidence in regent leadership does not rest solely on the presidential search. Their decision to fail the search is just one last straw as to why the leadership does not work for education in the state of Iowa."

Greer said the renewed interest in the no confidence vote could be because regent action has been slow. The regents have left campus in limbo on the direction of the search, and they waited more than two weeks after calling off the search to meet to discuss what to do next.

"Following the governor's meeting, we expected other things to happen quickly. The fact that they didn't meet for a week, then met in closed session and gave no indication and made no public announcement of how they are moving forward, is leading to staff uncertainty about postponing the vote," Greer said.

In Washington, D.C., Vilsack met with reporters covering his bid for the presidency. He was noncommittal when asked about the status of the search.

"They are going to work on it, and I am confident at the end of all this we will have a great president for a great university," he said.