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Search 'progress' reported after meeting

Dean Treftz

The Daily Iowan

November 28, 2006

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

CEDAR RAPIDS - UI presidential-search committee and Faculty Senate members said the groups may not carry out no-confidence votes against the state Board of Regents after a Monday night meeting with Gov. Tom Vilsack.

"At this time, I do not believe" there will be a vote of no-confidence from UI Student Government, said President Peter McElligott, after a brief press statement from Vilsack. UI Faculty Senate President Sheldon Kurtz also doubted whether that group would pass an identical measure during today's meeting. Both Kurtz and McElligott were members of the now-defunct search committee.

Many of the Monday meeting's participants vaguely alluded to progress in the three-hour closed-door assembly but when asked about specifics, refused to comment.

"Progress has been made, but more work is going to be done," Vilsack said in his statement to a lineup of cameras, before immediately leaving the Hall Perrine Foundation in Cedar Rapids.

Notably tightlipped was Regent President Michael Gartner, who also exited quickly; he told reporters he had nothing to say.

The UI community - including prominent members of the presidential-search committee - had criticized Gartner after regents on Nov. 17 rejected the panel's four finalists to replace former UI President David Skorton. Many speculated that Gartner had wanted a specific candidate who was not among the foursome.

After 10 days of uproar from search-panel members and UI faculty, the meeting's participants commented positively on the controversial process following the discussion.

"There is sort of a feeling that we made progress," said UI Staff Council President Mary Greer, who was also a member of the search committee. She added that she saw a new sense of optimism in the process.

Both Greer and McElligott praised the governor's "leadership" but repeatedly refused to comment on what that may entail.

Vilsack, who had not been officially involved with the UI presidential search until a public comment on Nov. 20, called the meeting "productive" and the conversation "frank."

"I think all of us are committed to do what we need to have a great president for a great university," he said.

Regent Robert Downer of Iowa City said the regents would discuss the results of Monday's conference, though he could not say whether search-committee members will be included in further talks.

The reluctance to provide details was a microcosm of the entire UI presidential-search process, which has been largely executed behind closed doors by officials with legally sealed lips.

Regents required search committee members to sign confidentiality agreements before each meeting. The most recent and restrictive agreement had been another point of contention between the committee and regents.

"Students have been asking, 'What's going on?' " McElligott said. "I'm hoping they do have faith."