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No Confidence

Faculty votes 62-1 against regents' leadership

Brian Morelli

Iowa City Press-Citizen

December 13, 2006

Press-Citizen's video of Faculty vote

Press-Citizen, "Audio: Gartner Responds to No-Confidence Vote" (3 audio clips)

Brian Morelli, "Staff Council Passes No-Confidence Vote"

[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.]

An emotional and overflowing crowd of University of Iowa faculty resoundingly supported a no-confidence resolution Tuesday in the Iowa state Board of Regent leadership.

The vote formalized dissatisfaction in what faculty describe as a dysfunctional board of regents because of the leadership of Regent President Michael Gartner of Des Moines and President Pro-tem Teresa Wahlert of Waukee.

"Faculty from every college of the university came here singing a chorus of no confidence," Faculty Senate president Sheldon Kurtz said. "It is remarkable commentary on the level of support."

The Faculty Senate voted 62-1 to support the resolution during a special meeting in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber. The crowd of 318 people filled the chamber, and much of the lobby erupted in cheers and greeted the group with standing ovations at several points.

"This action today is the proudest moment I've experienced at UI," said Francois Abboud, a distinguished medical faculty member and vice-chairman of the initial presidential search committee. "This resonates throughout the entire country. They see the solidarity."

Kurtz said he hopes to build pressure to force Gartner and Wahlert off the board. The governor has the power to remove regents with the support of the state Senate, according to Iowa Code, although neither Gov. Tom Vilsack nor Gov.-elect Chet Culver has given any indication they will call for this.

Gartner and Kurtz said they expect to maintain a working relationship when necessary despite the no-confidence vote.

Pins stating "Radical Minority" and T-shirts with a similar slogan were being distributed at the meeting. The items referenced comments Wahlert made downplaying criticism by saying it was coming from a radical minority on campus.

Very few have spoken publicly to defend Gartner and Wahlert, and no one spoke against the vote Tuesday despite urging for other perspectives.

Gartner said he would agree with Wahlert's assessment that support for their ouster is limited.

"This is an Iowa City and Cedar Rapids phenomena," Gartner said in a phone interview Tuesday. "It doesn't interfere with my job and will not force change."

Gartner said he has received "far more" support via phone calls, e-mails and personal visits than he has received criticism. He also said he would not resign even if asked by the governor.

He also described faculty's litany of complaints as a "combination of half truths and untruths and innuendoes."

Wahlert did not return telephone or e-mail messages Tuesday evening.

"What we have not had in the current leadership of the board is the willingness to have an open, collegial and civil conversation," said Richard Hurtig, a speech pathology and audiology professor. "And I am shocked at the conduct of the leadership with regard to some of the most respected faculty members on this campus. They are nationally and internationally known scholars. Their reputation is not in question."

Tensions have been mounting for nearly a year regarding the secrecy and control surrounding the presidential search and a strategic change process.

"The faculty, staff and students are the root of the university, and it is folly to ignore them," said Peg Burke, professor emeritus of health and sports studies and a former Faculty Senate president.

Burke said this is the worst she has seen relations.

Faculty had been upset by the decision for a regent-led search, a first in recent Iowa history, and the unwillingness to support on-campus interviews. Most recently tempers flared after regents voted 6-2 to dismiss four presidential finalists and to restart the search to replace David Skorton, now president at Cornell University.

Faculty leaders have said scrapping the search was influenced by Gartner's preference for a candidate who was not among the finalists.

The search is scheduled to restart Monday with a regent teleconference.

Graduate students, Staff Council and the College of Liberal Arts and Science Faculty Assembly have no-confidence votes scheduled today. Undergraduates are planning a vote, but it's unclear when that will happen because of finals and the end of the semester.

Staff Council passes no-confidence vote

Brian Morelli

Iowa City Press-Citizen

December 13, 2006

Regent President Michael Gartner and President Pro-tem Teresa Wahlert should take the high road by recognizing that they are hurting higher education and should resign, University of Iowa Staff Council President Mary Greer said Wednesday.

Staff Council was the second campus body to pass a no confidence resolution in Gartner and Wahlert. Councilors voted 38-1 with two abstentions Wednesday at a meeting in the Pappajohn Business Building on campus. A standing room only crowd of more than 100 people packed a fourth floor conference room and erupted in applause on multiple occasions.

“I am glad the press is taking photos of the vote,” said UI history professor Katherine Tachau, who attended the meeting. “The regents need to know how it is done.”

Gartner and Wahlert have said they will not step down.

“There is a possibility (this vote) won’t make a difference, but we had to take a stand,” said Staff Council member Dave Martin.