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Regent resigns, calls UI behavior 'disgusting'

Iowa City Press-Citizen and The Associated Press

December 14, 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.]

DES MOINES Tom Bedell submitted his resignation today from the Iowa State Board of Regents, saying new leadership is needed.

Bedell, who only has served on the board for 1½ years, said the Regents have become ``mired in controversy and name calling.''

His resignation comes amid a torrent of criticism and controversy aimed at the Regents over the failed search for a new president at the University of Iowa.

Bedell, of Spirit Lake, sent a letter to Gov.-elect Chet Culver and said he will ask Culver to accept his resignation once he takes office next month.

In a letter released to the media, Bedell offered widespread criticism of the Regents, lawmakers and faculty, staff and students at the university.

``I think we need to clear the air, we need to rise above some of the controversy and focus on what's really important in the state,'' he told The Associated Press. ``I'm trying to make room for Governor Culver to provide new leadership on the board.''

Bedell wasn't critical of current board President Michael Gartner, but said new leadership was needed.

``I think we need fresh leadership, and the problem is there is no open slot for appointment for several months,'' he said. ``We need to put behind all the silliness between the Regents and the University of Iowa.''

Bedell said the acrimonious relationship between the Regents and the university has been ongoing for several months.

``That has been totally unproductive and in fact has hurt our ability to search for a new president and recruit a new president and have a new president come in and be successful,'' he said.

He said his criticism is not targeted at any one person or addressing one particular issue.

``It's a whole lot of things collectively,'' he said. ``Let's look for a fresh way to go forward.

In his letter addressed to ``the people of Iowa,'' Bedell said the Regents ``have failed to lead with vision and inspiration.

``We have engaged in power struggles that are unnecessary and divisive,'' he said. ``Personalities have caused suspicion of intentions and agendas which are not focused on serving the people of Iowa.''

He also criticized the faculty senate, staff and students at the university, saying there is no debate of their ``shortcomings and political self interests.

``Their behavior is disgusting and embarrassing,'' Bedell said.

The University of Iowa Staff Council earlier this week approved a no confidence resolution against the Regents. The group represents 5,200 non-bargaining staff members. The university's Faculty Senate also approved the resolution.

Both groups have criticized the Regents over their handling of the search for a new university president.

The Regents voted last month to reject all four finalists chosen by a search committee and to start the process from scratch.

Jenny Connolly, the student member of the board, said she was sad to hear of Bedell's resignation.

``He thinks big and is just such a positive person,'' said Connolly, a graduate student at the University of Northern Iowa. ``I'm really, really sad and shocked, but I understand because there's a lot of turmoil in general, and he probably sees there are other ways he can help the state.''

She said she also felt there are personality conflicts that have divided the Regents and the University of Iowa and said the person who is appointed to fill Bedell's post needs to be ``someone who can pull it together again.''

Telephone messages left today for other Regents, including Gartner and Teresa Wahlert, who headed the disbanded search committee, weren't immediately returned.