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A new questionnaire for U of I search:
Can you spell regent? Can you curtsy or bow?

Ken Fuson

Des Moines Register

December 1, 2006

[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.]

The Word of the Day is ... regent.

As in, Iowa Board of Regents. As in, what's taking them so darn long to choose a new University of Iowa president?

After all, Iowa State finally hired a head football coach, and everyone knows what eventually happens to them. U of I presidents usually go on to bigger and much-better-paying things. This shouldn't be that difficult.

We begin with a question: Just what, exactly, is a regent?

From the dictionary: "A person who exercises the ruling power in a kingdom during the minority, absence, or disability of the sovereign."

Well, there's your problem. Gov. Tom Vilsack has left Iowa to run for president, and the regents are exerting power. They are doing this by ignoring the consulting firm they hired, and the advisory board they picked, and starting over.

This is what's known as the "We value the opinions of others, especially when they share our opinion" school of management.

Wait. There's another definition of regent: "A member of the governing board of a state university."

OK, fine, but obviously they need help. Thank goodness they have me. Here's a questionnaire the regents can use to winnow the field of potential campus leaders:

1. Which best describes your overall philosophy:

A. Education determines destiny.
B. A university is the heart and soul of every state.
C. Knowledge rocks!
D. Tom Vilsack would make a mighty fine U.S. president.

2. Please fill in the following: How 'bout them ...:
A. Hawks!
B. Donors!
C. Tenured faculty members!
D. Iowa Cubs!

3. What will be the most important thing you can say at your first Iowa Board of Regents meeting:
A. "It's great to be a Hawkeye."
B. "I'm proud and humbled to be asked to lead this fine institution."
C. "The future belongs to the bold."
D. "I agree with Michael Gartner."

4. Which answer best describes your personality:
A. Go-getter.
B. Firm, yet friendly.
C. Insatiably curious.
D. The sort of person who's confident enough not to take it personally that I was omitted from the first list of finalists.

5. Which of the following will you demand that Iowa's athletic teams beat:
A. The Iowa State Cyclones.
B. The Northern Iowa Panthers.
C. The Minnesota Golden Gophers.
D. Those members of the presidential search advisory committee who won't stop whining.

6. Which of the following qualifications for office prompted you to mutter, "Ah, sweet irony:"
A. Understanding the role of University Hospitals.
B. Experience in fundraising.
C. Knowledge of complex budgeting.
D. Success in creating consensus.

7. Please complete the following: A salary of $1.3 million a year is to 10 college football victories as $2.7 million a year is to ________ wins.
A. 20
B. 12
C. 11
D. Six (but maybe seven, if Drew Tate stays calm and the defense stops somebody).

8. Finish this statement: My hardest job will be ...
A. Reassuring students.
B. Keeping good faculty.
C. Hobnobbing with donors.
D. Persuading Iowa lawmakers to give us more money when $200,000 was blown on a consulting firm for the first search.

9. I promise students that I will do everything in my power to:
A. Protect the integrity of U of I degrees.
B. Reduce class sizes.
C. Listen to their concerns.
D. Lower the state's drinking age.

10. When all seems lost, I will:
A. Persevere.
B. Keep the faith.
C. Hang tough.
D. Remind myself how much former U of I president Mary Sue Coleman is making now.

Anyone who answers "D" to every question immediately enters the candidate pool. Herky the Hawk and Cubby Bear, the Iowa Cubs' mascot, will notify the winner, to be immediately followed by the first faculty and student no-confidence vote.

Once the winner bows out, the regents can choose the person they should have picked in the first place: former governor Robert D. Ray. The U of I presidency is the only job he hasn't held.

Look at the bright side, Bob. It's got to be easier than coaching Iowa State's football team.
Reporter KEN FUSON's column appears on Friday. He can be reached at (515) 284-8501 or