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Regents weighed in on UI campus interviews in e-mail

Diane Heldt

The Gazette

January 5, 2007

E-Mails Between Regents, Full Text, December 12-18, 2006

[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 — Six state regents believe a new University of Iowa presidential search committee should not promise public campus interviews with finalists, e-mail messages obtained Thursday by The Gazette show.

  They were responding to an email that regents President Michael Gartner of Des Moines sent on Dec. 12, before a Dec. 18 meeting by telephone that launched a second attempt to find a new UI president.

  The meeting was criticized by some because the regents exchanged information by e-mail before meeting in open session. That did not violate Iowa’s openmeetings law but was not in the law’s spirit, Kathleen Richardson, executive secretary of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, said later. In his email, Gartner sought opinions about the new search, including if a dean should lead it, if a regent should be on the committee and if the committee should insist on campus interviews.

  The e-mail shows two board members favoring campus interviews. One did not answer immediately. Some regents say campus interviews could make candidates drop out and that such public interviews are becoming less common.

  That has been a point of contention in the rocky search for a successor to David Skorton, who left the UI in June for the Cornell University presidency. UI faculty, staff and student leaders say campus interviews, long a tradition, are essential to finding the right president. The regents unanimously selected UI College of Dentistry Dean David Johnsen on Dec. 18 to lead a new search. The search had been in limbo since Nov. 17, when the regents voted 6-2 to reject four recommended candidates and disband the an original search committee. That move prompted UI faculty, staff and student groups, to overwhelmingly pass resolutions of no confidence in board leadership last month.

 Other revelations

  E-mail sent before the Dec. 18 meeting, provided to The Gazette by the regents office Thursday in response to a Freedom of Information Request, also revealed:

 UI faculty reaction

  UI Faculty Senate President Sheldon Kurtz said Thursday the search discussion via e-mail rather than in a public meeting continues to concern him. He said reporters had to obtain the e-mail through a Freedom of Information request, and that other important information may exist for which the media did not know to ask.

  ‘‘I’d prefer them to do the public’s business in public,’’ Kurtz said. ‘‘Doing business that way subverts the intent of the open-meetings law. I really do think this raises some really significant questions of public policy that the Legislature will have to address.’’