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Private meeting on UI presidency under way

Diane Heldt

The Gazette Online

December 1, 2006, 2:16 PM

UI Search Resumes Monday

[Note: This material is copyright by the Des Moines Register, 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 Des Moines Register.]

IOWA CITY, IA - Four state regents and several University of Iowa college deans entered a private meeting this afternoon at the UI's president's mansion to air concerns about the troubled UI presidential search.

"All the people in that room want to communicate their concern," Regent Amir Arbisser, of Davenport, told reporters waiting outside the house for news of what gets discussed inside.

The meeting began at 1:30 p.m. at the mansion, 102 Church St. No word was available, yet, on what has been discussed.

Interim President Gary Fethke invited college deans to the meeting, "basically, to hear our comments and concerns about searching for a great leaders of the University of Iowa," Arbisser said.

The search for a successor to David Skorton, who left the UI in June for the presidency at Cornell University, has been in limbo since a 6-2 vote by the regents Nov. 17 to reject four recommended candidates, scrap the search committee and restart the process. That drew the ire of many at the UI, and Gov. Tom Vilsack stepped in this week in an attempt to resolve the problems.

Arbisser, a member of that search committee, said the regents are trying to arrange a time when all can meet next week to revisit the presidential search.

Present at this afternoon's meeting, besides Arbisser, Fethke and the deans, are Regents President Michael Gartner of Des Moines and Regents Bob Downer of Iowa City and Ruth Harkin of Cumming. Gartner and Harkin also were on the presidential search committee.

Other attendees included Regents Executive Director Gary Steinke and Linda Kettner, UI associate director of university relations.

UI Faculty Senate President Sheldon Kurtz said he was concerned about the meeting and what impact it might have on the governor's work to resolve the conflict. Kurtz was not invited.

"My concerns run to whether or not this meeting would be consistent with the efforts of the governor to get the search back on track," Kurtz said.

The presidential search has been a lightning rod for criticism because of the tight control the regents have held on the search and because it has been conducted largely in secret. Earlier this week The Gazette reported that the UI has paid $195,227 so far just in consulting fees and advertising.

The total was in documents released Wednesday by the state Board of Regents, in response to a Freedom of Information request The Gazette filed.

UI search resumes Monday

UI administrators have ‘frank chat’ with regents about presidential hunt

Diane Heldt

The Gazette

December 2, 2006

  IOWA CITY — Deans and vice presidents were left out of the University of Iowa’s stalled presidential search discussion before finally getting to share their thoughts with four state regents at a private meeting Friday, UI Interim President Gary Fethke said.

  That search is to be given a new start at a special telephonic regents’ executive session that begins at 7:30 a.m. Monday, the regents’ board office announced.

  Fethke called Friday’s twohour meeting at the UI president’s mansion, 102 Church St. In attendance were all 11 deans, several vice presidents and the regents. The group totaled about 25 people, said Regent Bob Downer of Iowa City, who also attended.

  Regents President Michael Gartner of Des Moines declined comment on what was discussed as he left the meeting, saying only, ‘‘We had a great meeting.’’

  Most of the others declined comment, too. But Fethke told reporters he wanted the deans and vice presidents to get caught up on what has been a volatile UI presidential search.

  ‘‘Really it was great communication. A very productive meeting,’’ Fethke said. ‘‘There’s been too much separation of people. It was an opportunity to get together with leadership and have a frank chat.’’

  UI Staff Council President Mary Greer, a member of the since- scrapped presidential search committee, said she was happy to hear about Monday’s regents meeting. But, she said, ‘‘unusual meetings’’ such as Friday’s need to cease.

  ‘‘I wish the regents would tell us more about what they were sharing with this particular audience that is different from what they’ve shared’’ with others, she said.

  Greer wondered whether faculty and staff would have opportunities for similar meetings.

  UI Faculty Senate President Sheldon Kurtz had the same concern and wondered whether Friday’s meeting might undercut work being done by Gov. Tom Vilsack. Kurtz said he has talked to two of four UI candidates the presidential search committee recommended for the job, and they have expressed concerns about the situation at the UI. The search for a successor to David Skorton, who left the UI in June for the Cornell University presidency, stalled when the regents voted 6-2 on Nov. 17 to reject the final four candidates.

  The regents then dissolved the search committee and decided to start the presidential search over. The move drew sharp criticism from many UI faculty, staff and student leaders, prompting Vilsack to step in with an unprecedented Monday night meeting with the main players in Cedar Rapids in an effort to resolve the problems.

  Fethke said discussing the four candidates would have been inappropriate during Friday’s meeting and no names were mentioned. Regents Amir Arbisser of Davenport and Ruth Harkin of Cumming also attended the meeting.

  The search has been a lightning rod for criticism because of the tight control the regents have held on the process and because it has been conducted largely in secret.

 Provost still interested

  One of the four candidates recommended to the board, UI Provost Michael Hogan, said Friday he remains interested in the UI job. He was one of two finalists for the University of Delaware presidency, but officials there announced Friday their choice of Patrick Harker, dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

  ‘‘I am so honored to have been considered. But am I disappointed? No, not really,’’ Hogan said. ‘‘They knew of my continuing interest in the Iowa position.’’