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UI 'no confidence' votes pile up

More groups calling for leadership change in state Board of Regents

Diane Heldt

The Gazette

December 14, 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 — Three more University of Iowa groups Wednesday joined the call for a leadership change in the state Board of Regents, passing measures of ‘‘no confidence’’ in regents leadership.

  The UI Staff Council voted 38-1 to express a lack of trust and confidence in Regents President Michael Gartner of Des Moines and Regents President Pro Tem Teresa Wahlert of Waukee. It was followed by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Faculty Assembly, by a 37-0 vote, and Graduate Student Senate, by 39-0.

  Board leadership has exhibited ‘‘a blatant and disturbing pattern of secrecy, micromanagement, authoritarianism and disrespect’’ over the past two years, Staff Council President Mary Greer said before that group’s vote.

  ‘‘We know what we have to say will be difficult and perhaps it won’t change anything,’’ she said. ‘‘If we don’t take this opportunity to tell the boss’ boss, then we are simply returning to our cubes knowing that our silence supports the status quo.’’

  Greer’s statement was met with applause; more than 80 people attended the meeting. The 52-member Staff Council represents about 5,200 nonfaculty UI employees. In pages of comments from staff members Greer supplied via e-mail prior to the vote, support for the ‘‘no confidence’’ resolution was about five to one.

  At the Liberal Arts and Sciences Faculty Assembly meeting, attended by about 60 people, members said the vote was about more than the recently failed presidential search. It’s about a leadership style that does not support success at the UI, they said. ‘‘This is a statement that the university is not going to be able to function under a particular kind of leadership,’’ history professor Jeff Cox said.

  Graduate Student Senate member Kari Thompson, 23, said the vote was a way for students to show their involvement in campus issues. ‘‘I think this resolution makes a strong statement that we pay attention to everything the board does, not just with our money or tuition,’’ she said.

  The UI Faculty Senate passed a ‘‘no confidence’’ resolution in regents leadership Tuesday by 62-1.

  Gartner said the ‘‘no confidence’’ votes would have no bearing on the regents and that he would not resign. Wahlert told The Gazette Wednesday she had no comment on the votes.

  ‘‘I think we know what the job is that we have to do and we continue to do it,’’ she said, adding she hasn’t considered resigning.

  Wahlert was chairwoman of the recently disbanded UI presidential search committee and Gartner was a committee member. Faculty, staff and student leaders have accused her of using top-down management and have criticized the regents for not accepting committee recommendations for a new UI president.

  The regents are seeking a successor to David Skorton, who left in June for the Cornell University presidency.

  The regents are to discuss in a 5 p.m. telephonic meeting Monday ways to restart the presidential search. They voted 6-2 on Nov. 17 to reject four candidates recommended by the search committee, to disband the committee and to launch a new search.