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U of I faculty speak loudly, hope regents hear

A 62-1 Faculty Senate vote expresses a 'lack of trust' in board leaders after a failed presidential search

Erin Jordan

Des Moines Register

December 13, 2006

What is the Faculty Senate?

Lynn Campbell, "Pomerantz blasts Gartner, Regents over U of I search"

[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. - University of Iowa faculty hope Tuesday's resounding no-confidence vote in leaders of the Iowa Board of Regents will force those leaders to resign or be removed from the board.

The U of I Faculty Senate, in a boisterous show of solidarity, voted 62-1 in favor of a resolution expressing a "lack of trust and confidence in the leadership of the Iowa Board of Regents." Some in the standing-room-only crowd gathered Tuesday at the Old Capitol said they hoped the vote was a way forward after a failed presidential search.

"I support this motion, not as a form of punishment or as a vindictive action, but as a move toward forward motion," said Downing Thomas, a professor of French and Italian and a faculty senator.

Sheldon Kurtz, a law professor who is chairman of the Senate, said he hoped the vote would persuade Regents President Michael Gartner and President Pro-tem Teresa Wahlert to resign.

"I would much prefer that to a more political way to force them out," he said.

Gartner said the vote would not change his decision to stay on the board. "I intend to continue to do my job," he said Monday and reaffirmed Tuesday in an e-mail after the vote.

Tuesday's vote - and future votes expected from staff and students - could give Iowa legislators justification for asking the regents' leaders to step down, Kurtz said. Some Iowa City-area legislators have said they supported replacing some part of the nine-member board.

An Iowa governor, with support of a majority of the Iowa Senate, can remove a regent for "malfeasance in office, or for any cause which would render the member ineligible for appointment or incapable or unfit to discharge the duties of the office," according to state law.

Tuesday's Faculty Senate meeting was like a pep rally, with professors applauding wildly and giving three standing ovations. Professors lined up to get T-shirts and buttons proclaiming them in the "radical minority," a phrase Wahlert used last week to describe faculty calling for her ouster.

"This action is the proudest I can say I've experienced at the University of Iowa," said Dr. Francois Abboud, chairman of cardiovascular research and a U of I associate vice provost for research.

Abboud was vice chairman of an 18-member search committee charged with choosing finalists for the U of I presidency. The group worked for 10 months before the regents voted Nov. 17 to reject four finalists and disband the committee. After encouragement by Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, the regents decided to reconsider one finalist, but that person declined the offer.

The regents will meet Monday to discuss the next phase of the presidential search.

The "notorious debacle" of a search was not the only reason faculty proposed the no-confidence vote, Kurtz said. Faculty were also upset that the regents' leaders quietly launched a strategic planning process without a permanent president at the U of I, he said.

The U of I Staff Council and Graduate Student Senate will propose resolutions of no-confidence in the regents' leaders today in Iowa City.

What is the Faculty Senate?
The University of Iowa Faculty Senate, composed of 82 representatives of all academic units, serves as the principal channel of communication between faculty members and the U of I central administration. The Senate may discuss and take a position on any subject of university concern and may recommend policies on those matters to the U of I president.

The Senate appoints faculty members to serve on university and Faculty Senate committees. The Senate consults with the Iowa Board of Regents regarding appointment of central academic officials and with the president on periodic performance reviews of those officials.

The 23-member Faculty Council, composed of elected faculty senators, meets frequently to discuss issues of current importance, and to prepare action suggestions for submission to the Faculty Senate.

Pomerantz blasts Gartner, regents over U of I search

Lynn Campbell

Des Moines Register Online

December 13, 2006

A former president of the Iowa Board of Regents today offered a scathing review of the current board and portrayed the bungled search to find a new University of Iowa president as a disaster waiting to happen.

Republican Marvin Pomerantz, a Des Moines businessman who was regents president from 1987 to 1993, and again from 1995 to 1996, said Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack should not have appointed Michael Gartner board president.

“It’s a policy-making board. Mike engenders conflict where ever he goes,” Pomerantz said in a meeting with Des Moines Register reporters and editors. “Mike is brilliant. He’s got a lot of great ideas, but he’s not a great leader. I would get down to fundamentals. There’s a lot of separate agendas over on that board right now.”

Pomerantz urged the Board of Regents to put off a new presidential search until the controversy of the failed search dies down. U of I faculty, staff and student leaders have been at odds with the regents since the board voted 6-2 on Nov. 17 to reject four finalists for the U of I presidency.

"Let it cool a little while," said Pomerantz, adding that Interim President Gary Fethke is a good leader.