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Campus interview decision put off

Committee members pledge openness

Diane Heldt

The Gazette

January 27, 2007

[Note: This material is copyright by The Gazette, 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 Gazette.]

  IOWA CITY — The decision about holding campus interviews with finalists for the University of Iowa presidency will be made later in the process, search committee members decided Friday.

  Several members said they support the idea of public campus interviews, but it’s an issue that can’t be decided until they see the candidate pool and talk to candidates about it. Sitting presidents at other universities who are interested in the UI job, for example, may not want to participate in public interviews, several members said. ‘‘Most of us or maybe even all of us would really love to have on-campus interviews of some kind, but that’s a determination we can make much later,’’ College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Linda Maxson said.

  It was the first meeting for the new, 13-member committee leading the search for a successor to David Skorton, who left the UI in June for the Cornell University presidency. The first search stalled Nov. 17 when the state Board of Regents voted 6-2 to reject four finalists and disband the committee. This committee has all new members and includes no regents.

  Because the group is sanctioned by the regents, it is subject to Iowa’s open meetings laws, committee Chairman David Johnsen said, advice that came from UI Vice President for Legal Affairs and General Counsel Marc Mills, who has been assigned as legal counsel for the committee. The first committee had no open meetings.

  The group will go into executive session to discuss candidates and will keep candidate names confidential, but discussions of the process will be open, said Johnsen, dean of the UI College of Dentistry. ‘‘The spirit of openness is one I hope we will have,’’ he said.

  Periodic updates to the UI community will be key, said member Jarjisu Sa-Aadu, professor of finance.

  ‘‘We don’t want to create an atmosphere where people are constantly guessing,’’ he said. Much of the discussion Friday focused on procedures and philosophies the group will follow, including: | The expectation that the regents will want the names of four finalists with commentary on each from the committee.

  Decisions of the committee will be made by consensus, though votes will be taken when necessary, including a vote on each candidate during the finalist stage.

  Members will develop a key message and talking points for use in discussions with UI faculty, staff, students and alumni and Iowa residents. The message will include acknowledgment of the first search and the ensuing controversy but also stress that committee members are positive and ready to move on.

  ‘‘We are all in this boat together,’’ Sa- Aadu said. ‘‘We’re not going to allow this boat to take on water.’’

  The committee plans to meet on Friday afternoons and wants a new president chosen by July 1.