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Confessions from one of the 'radical vocal minority'

Duncan Stewart

Iowa City Press-Citizen

December 12, 2006

Ellen Haywood, It's Time to Get Rid of Gartner

[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.]

I confess, I am one of the "radical vocal minority" at the University of Iowa who has had the temerity to criticize the Board of Regents' exemplary conduct in the UI presidential search. To save the regents from having to request information about me, I earn ... well, I won't announce it here, it might make my physician friends a bit jealous. But you can look my salary up on the Press-Citizen Web site.

I don't teach any classes, but I do catalog really expensive rare books and esoteric foreign videos -- probably things the regents think the university can do without.

I wonder how regent Teresa Wahlert discovered how few disgruntled staff there really are? Did master of disguise and Regents President Michael Gartner slip into our last secret meeting at Carver-Hawkeye Arena? I was a bit disappointed that only 28,995 of our 29,000 students showed up, but I am pretty sure that we had 14,996 of the 15,000 faculty and staff (yes, I counted the four in the restroom). Herky and the cheerleaders sure got the crowd going.

As a member of the UI Staff Council, I look forward to voting -- twice if I can get away with it -- no confidence in this Board of Regents. The principled Bob Downer excepted.

UI Staff Council, Faculty Senate and Student Government will probably all vote this week to express their lack of confidence in the regents because the board has failed miserably to fulfill their duty to govern in the best interests of the people of Iowa and the universities. Moreover, in rejecting three of the original four recommended candidates for a second time the regents disobeyed a direct request from their boss, Gov. Tom Vilsack.

All of this started when the board saw fit to unilaterally change the time-honored system of a UI-led search for our new president. The regents claim that a secretive process, led by an outside search firm that has already cost us $200,000 -- and that will also cost us a percentage of the president's first year pay -- is necessary today. Why would we want someone as president who is afraid to come to campus or be publicly identified as applying for our job? Doesn't that mean that they are likely to sneak off and do it again after a few years of resume-building at the UI?

The old system worked just fine. You can bet that there wasn't a head-hunting firm involved when Virgil Hancher was selected as UI President in 1940, or Willard Boyd in 1969. Note that these men, two of our most influential leaders, like many other UI presidents, were chosen from among our own distinguished faculty. Personally, I think promoting someone with a proven commitment to the university makes a lot more sense than paying $200K to find some carpetbagger. Just think, if the regents had put that money into former President David Skorton's salary, we'd never have gotten into this mess.

The board's crude attempt to intimidate professors Shelly Kurtz, Katharine Tachau and Francis Abboud by secretly asking about their salaries and course loads is beneath contempt. Gartner claims that as tenured faculty they should not be worried when their bosses ask for this kind of information. But wouldn't you be alarmed to find that the board of directors of your company called personnel, asked how much you earn, how many hours you work and told them not to share that request with you? Especially when the board executive secretary demanded this information within 30 minutes -- and he could have just looked it up on the Web.

It's pretty clear this inquiry was designed to give UI employees the message not to mess with the regents.

Before that request, I didn't think the regents would stoop to retaliation against UI critics, but I did ask if staff could be fired in this situation.

Although I still believe it's unlikely for at-will employees like me, it could happen. If you know of any open library jobs for smart alecks, keep me in mind. As for my earlier offer to join the Board of Regents, maybe I'll just wait until the presidential search starts again, I better go dust off my résumé.
Duncan Stewart, who can name a bunch of former UI presidents, is a member of the Press-Citizen's Writers' Group.

Itís time to get rid of Gartner

Ellen Haywood

Iowa City Press-Citizen

December 11, 2006

The Board of Regents announces that a "new (presidential) search process will be discussed and developed by the regents in consultation with all University of Iowa stakeholders, donors, faculty and staff, deans, administrators and Iowa City area community leaders."

Thatís a start, but itís not good enough.

The history of the search, from beginning to end, provides clear evidence of the boardís penchant for micromanaging, nurturing grudges, being secretive and holding public contempt for the university community. What candidate of quality would be willing to consider working under the current board?

The first step in this "new search process" must be the immediate resignation of Michael Gartner.

Ellen Heywood
Iowa City

Posted at 5:32 PM on December 11, 2006

I agree.

Although after Faculty Senate, Staff Council and Student Government came out of there own closed door meeting with Regents and Gov. Vilsack tight lipped- I don't have confidence in any of the players.