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U of I presidential search panel agrees to make its meetings open

Erin Jordan

Des Moines Register

January 27, 2007

[Note: This material is copyright by the Des Moines Register, 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 Des Moines Register.]

Iowa City, Ia. - A new University of Iowa presidential search committee will comply with Iowa's open meetings law - a change from an earlier search that was disbanded in November.

The new 13-member committee that will interview candidates and choose finalists for the U of I presidency held its first meeting Friday afternoon.

The group of eight professors, two deans, a staff member, a donor and a student talked about the procedures they will use and how to make sure their actions adhere to the law.

"I want to make sure we're clear what the law is in this situation," said David Johnsen, dean of the U of I College of Dentistry and chairman of the committee.

Because the Iowa Board of Regents sanctioned the committee, the group is required to hold public meetings, Johnsen said. This is a change from the first phase of the U of I's search, which broke down on Nov. 17 when the regents rejected four finalists chosen by an 18-member search committee.

In the earlier search, meetings were closed to the public, and there was no public notice of the meetings. Open-government advocates criticized the secrecy, saying discussions about the process of the search should have been held in public.

Several members of the new committee said they would like to have public, on-campus interviews for the finalists but would not insist upon that.

"Most of us would love to have on-campus interviews of some kind, but that's a determination we should vote on much later in the process," said Linda Maxson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Science.

Open interviews for finalists have long been a tradition for Iowa's public universities.

The search committee's next meeting is Feb. 2.

Johnsen said he hopes the regents will choose a president by July 1.