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Relations with Regents grow icy

Danny Valentine

The Daily Iowan

November 27, 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.]

The UI Faculty Senate and Student Government plan to pass "no-confidence" votes Tuesday that would call for a leadership overhaul in the state Board of Regents and the end of communication between the groups, officials said Sunday.

The decision comes after a 6-2 Nov. 17 vote by the regents to dissolve the UI presidential-search committee and reject the four proposed finalists. The move devastated UI faculty, staff, and student leaders and incited cries for the removal of Regent President Michael Gartner.

Sheldon Kurtz, a UI law professor and the president of the UI Faculty Senate, said he has every reason to believe the no-confidence measure will pass.

"It sends a very powerful message to the other members of the regents" for a change in regent leadership, he said.

UI Professor Steve McGuire, a member of the disbanded search panel, said the vote is quite significant despite its lack of legislative power because the university works through the principle of shared governance.

"My thought about this whole thing is that a vote of no-confidence is a very drastic measure," he said. "Right now, we have no confidence in the board leadership. By disbanding the search committee, what it has really done is set in motion real damage to future potential leadership."

The UI Staff Council will hold a similar no-confidence vote at its regularly scheduled meeting on Dec. 13 unless an emergency meeting is called before that time.

Aside from ending interaction between student government and the regents, UISG President Peter McElligott said, students' lobbying efforts would focus on changing the regents' leadership.

Although the no-confidence vote would be mostly symbolic, the threat is a valuable bargaining chip, he said.

"I am sure without the no-confidence vote, the governor wouldn't be meeting with us on Monday," McElligott said.

Today, UI representatives and Gartner will meet with Gov. Tom Vilsack in Cedar Rapids to discuss recent conflicts.

Regent Robert Downer of Iowa City, one of two regents who voted against disbanding the search committee, said he hopes today's meeting will pre-empt the need for votes of no-confidence by UI faculty, staff, and students.

"My strong hope would be that there are sufficient actions [to come out of the meeting] that they will not have to pursue a vote of no-confidence," he said.

Downer has been a frequent critic of the regents' decision to terminate the search committee, defending the search process and saying that the four finalists were all of high quality.

Since the Nov. 17 decision, a large amount of information about the process has come to light.

Here is an overview of what occurred over the Thanksgiving holiday:

The Des Moines Register reported on Nov. 22 that Deborah Freund, a former vice chancellor and provost at Syracuse University, was favored by Gartner but not included among the final four finalists. UI Provost Michael Hogan was among the four candidates forwarded by the search committee.

Members of the search committee reported that they were asked to sign confidentiality agreements that essentially tried to silence them. The confidentiality agreements, which have never been used before in a presidential search, would have prevented them from disclosing information about where they were going or from getting reimbursed for their travel expenses. Members refused to sign the new agreement. To read the two different confidentiality agreements, see below.

Plans concerning future presidential-search committees are still unknown.