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Losing all of our confidence in the regents


Iowa City Press-Citizen

December 8, 2006

[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.]

Shelly Kurtz is right. After receiving the news that the Iowa state Board of Regents had requested an interview with one of the four University of Iowa presidential finalists -- only to be told that the candidate no longer is interested in the job -- Kurtz, the president of the UI Faculty Senate, asked, "Would you want to take a job right now with this leadership of the Board of Regents?"

No, we wouldn't. And we can't imagine any other credible candidate would either.

Because the board's leadership has created an environment of secrecy and distrust, it's no wonder that any candidate would be thinking twice about assuming the UI presidency right now. As such, it's disappointing but not surprising that the board announced Thursday it is disbanding the search -- again -- and will discuss how to begin the process anew. Some of the search committee members, however, have said on the record that there is no way to go forward with the search with Michael Gartner on the Board of Regents, let alone with Gartner as board present. The calls for no confidence votes against the regent leadership -- which were postponed after Gov. Vilsack asked UI leaders for two weeks to work out a compromise -- have been rescheduled for Tuesday.

We agree that the search needs to be started anew. The committee members have worked hard to salvage a productive outcome from an extremely flawed process, but the board leadership has not supported their good faith efforts. It's time for the regents to learn from the mistakes made in this search -- including violations of the Iowa Open Meetings law -- and to implement a search model closer to the process that led to the appointment of such quality UI presidents as Hunter Rawlings, Mary Sue Coleman and David Skorton. That model is faculty-led and includes open dialogue and on-campus interviews. And, in order to maintain the new committee's legitimacy, none of the regents on the recently disbanded search committee should be involved.

Unless the governor directly intervenes and the regent leadership changes drastically, the UI faculty, staff and students also should move forward with their no confidence votes. After all, the regent leadership, in the words of one no confidence resolution, has "repeatedly breached the duty of care they owe to Iowans."

Passing a no confidence resolution would make cooperation difficult between the UI community and the regents, but -- as demonstrated by the failed search -- the recent leadership already has made that relationship impossible. If this process is to move forward at all, the regents -- not the university -- need to change.