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Gartner: Change search leaders
Deans and donors should run hunt for UI president, says head of regents

James Q. Lynch

The Gazette

December 14, 2006

[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.]

  JOHNSTON — Deans and donors should lead the search for a new University of Iowa president, Board of Regents President Michael Gartner said Wednesday.

  Regents should be involved, Gartner said during taping of Iowa Public Television’s ‘‘Iowa Press,’’ but not as chair of the search committee.

  Gartner said the regents will meet Monday to discuss how to proceed with the search, which has spawned a ‘‘Mardis Gras atmosphere’’ in Iowa City.

  Opposition to the search process that has resulted in no-confidence votes by faculty, staff and student groups on the UI campus stem from ‘‘cultural issues’’ unique to Iowa City, Gartner said.

  ‘‘It’s not about the search. It’s really a governance issue’’ that wasn’t seen when the regents replaced presidents at Iowa State University and earlier this year at the University of Northern Iowa, Gartner said.

  ‘‘The issue is who governs the University of Iowa — the Board of Regents or the faculty,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s sort of an Iowa City issue and it happens to have boiled up over the presidential issue, but it could have come up over anything.’’

  Asked if it was simply a case of ‘‘the inmates wanting to run the institution,’’ Gartner demurred, saying, ‘‘ Those are certainly your words.’’

  Based on conversations this week with other regents, Gartner said there is a consensus the next search committee should be smaller than the first, should be chaired by a dean rather than a regent and nobody who served on the first committee should be involved in the new search.

  ‘‘When you think about it, the deans are the men and women who are entrusted with the day-to-day management of the academic aspect of the institution,’’ Gartner said. ‘‘I think the deans should be well-represented on the search committee.’’

  And because presidents ‘‘have to deal daily, almost hourly, with raising money,’’ he said, the next UI president ‘‘has to be somebody who not only is acceptable to the deans, it has to be somebody who can raise money. I think the best people who can judge that are the people who give money. I would think they should be well-represented on the search committee.’’

  The UI is a ‘‘wonderful and great institution and it deserves a wonderful and great president,’’ Gartner said. However, the search process is not being helped by the ‘‘circus atmosphere’’ on campus. Critics on the campus — most who have never seen or met him, Gartner said — have adopted a ‘‘kind of herd mentality — a piling on.’’

  ‘‘That’s OK. That’s what freedom is about: say what you think even if what you think is not based on fact,’’ he said.

  It means ‘‘I’m not particularly enjoying my life right now,’’ Gartner said, but he has no plans to resign. Despite a situation that is ‘‘almost like a lynch mob some days,’’ Gartner said the regents will do their job.

  Time and hiring a first-rate president will go a long way toward easing tensions in the UI community, he said.

  ‘‘Iowa Press’’ airs at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 11:30 a.m. Sunday on Iowa Public Television.