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December 8, 2006
Letters: Nelson and Brown
[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.]
Regents should take some time to settle details of a new search process, resign their posts and then take a break until Chet Culver becomes governor next month. Let him decide which regents to reappoint and which to replace.
The board on Thursday finally ended a nine-month search that was fraught with conflict and secrecy.
Four finalists were spontaneously rejected, then later reconsidered.
The final blow came this week when a reconsidered candidate declined the board’s offer.
Even a highly unusual intrusion from Gov. Tom Vilsack last week failed to rescue a search gone bad, although at least Vilsack managed to get the attention of the regents.
Far too often regents turned a deaf ear to the public uproar over an unprofessional search plagued with poor communication, broken promises and hidden agendas.
Perhaps the best news coming from the regents since a search committee was formally seated last May was this statement in Thursday’s announcement: ‘‘A new 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.’’
If such a promise would have been made last spring, it’s highly likely the state would have been embracing a new president by now.
Instead, not only is there no president, but relationships between the regents and the university community are about as bad as they’ve ever been. That’s in large part because of the way the search was handled but in part, too, because of the still unclear circumstances behind the departure of the much beloved former UI President David Skorton after he’d made it clear he intended to stay at Iowa his entire career.
With all that’s transpired in the past year, it’s likely to take a long time to rebuild trust among the parties involved and restore public confidence in the board. And frankly, the university’s reputation and the image of the state will need time to heal from damage caused by a dysfunctional board. Suggesting all nine regents resign isn’t meant to place the entirety of blame on them. In fact, it’s likely that several regents would be great team players on a rebuilt Board of Regents. The resignations, though, would seem to be critical to give a fresh start to a new search process.
Also, because of Culver’s arrival, allowing him to make these important appointments seems like a natural way to give him a stake in the process while relieving the process of the baggage it has right now.
There’s no margin
for error on the next search. It simply has to yield a great university
president, ready to lead an excellent university. That can be accomplished
with an improved and more open search process — one without hidden agendas
and one led by a Board of Regents that acknowledges its mistakes and learns
Problem in UI conflict lies
The state of Iowa has an appointed board to oversee the operation of the state-supported university.
The problem is that the faculty does not want any oversight on how it spends taxpayers’ money or how and what it teaches students.
Pete Brown Cedar Rapids