Return to Nicholas Johnson's Main Web Site

Return to Nicholas Johnson's Iowa Rain Forest ("Earthpark") Web Site

Return to Nicholas Johnson's Blog, FromDC2Iowa

Iowa City Press-Citizen Letters

Colloton, "Abuse" of Graduate Students, UICCU

February 19, 2007

[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.]

Colloton conflicts of interest exist

I do not know John Colloton, but I do have a lifelong familiarity with and respect for one of Iowa's most remarkable institutions, University Hospitals. A recent guest opinion in the Press-Citizen ("If only we could return to Colloton," Feb. 15) prompts me to make the following observation.

Defend it any way one cares to, but it is inappropriate to be accepting regular privileges and economic gain from the University Hospitals and at the same time to be serving the interests of a party, Wellmark, whose financial concerns are in conflict with those of the hospital. Further, it adds insult to injury to defend this conflicting practice by besmirching the reputation of the University Hospital by suggesting that it is today a lesser institution than in some supposed "golden years" of the past.

Sam Osborne
West Branch

University isn't abusing students

I am writing in response to Amy Walsh's guest opinion ("Don't allow graduate students to be abused by university," Feb. 14). Although Walsh does highlight the need for increased funding for graduate education at the University of Iowa, I believe it is deeply unfair to characterize the UI as abusing its 5,000 graduate students.

It is true that graduate assistants are not highly paid employees, but they also are not full-time employees. It is likewise the case that graduate students work hard, but so do countless professors and administrators. One certainly doesn't pursue a Ph.D. for its working hours or financial rewards, although Walsh is correct that graduate student support is crucial to the success of graduate education.

Working to improve the contract for the University's graduate teaching and research assistants is indeed important work, and COGS -- the graduate employee union -- serves an important role in bringing about forward progress in that area.

Instead of speaking of vague "abuses," let us embrace graduate education, acknowledge the vital role that graduate students play on the UI campus and work together to increase the resources that are available to support the more than 100 graduate programs offered by the University of Iowa. The graduate faculty and deans at the University of Iowa show remarkable dedication to the UI's graduate students, and they deserve thanks, not criticism.

Johnathan Gajdos,
president, UI Graduate
Student Senate

Thank UICCU for years of service

Although I may not understand the need to hire a consultant and pay an exuberant amount of money for a name change that some may think is not needed or appropriate, I do want to commend the University of Iowa Community Credit Union for many years of superb service.

A.E. Betenbender
Iowa City

John Colloton is a valued mentor

I was head of a large department at University Hospitals for 15 years. John Colloton always will be one of my most valued mentors. He has devoted his life to the University of Iowa and its hospital, which is one of the nation's best in large measure because of his devotion, intelligence, and willingness to "take on" the people who have been his critics for many years. His service and effectiveness deserves, in fact demands, that he be accorded an office, secretary and, God forbid, even free parking, for as long as he is willing and able to come to work -- remember, he is paid no salary.

When several of my Iowa City friends sent me copies of the scurrilous attacks being made on this true giant in the hospital administration profession, I was disgusted. Here at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, emeritus faculty are welcomed and revered for their experience and contributions. Colloton deserves emeritus status not only because he was a longtime member of the UI faculty, but also because the magnificent University Hospitals stands as a monument to his untiring pursuit of excellence.

And people who have achieved emeritus status, and who don't necessarily walk so well anymore, deserve free parking ... close to the doors.

John H. Tinker
Omaha, Neb.

Colloton's right to privacy

Gerhild Krapf, Sally Mathis Hartwig and Joyce Summerwill

Iowa City Press-Citizen

February 21, 2007

As former colleagues of John W. Colloton's at University Hospitals, we would like to add our support to the views eloquently expressed by Reginald Cooper in his Feb. 2 guest opinion ("Colloton deserves better").

Over the past several weeks, we have read a hodgepodge of heavily redundant Press-Citizen articles concerning an illicit e-mail and word processing computer breach; undefined anonymous documents in the hands of the Press-Citizen; aggressive pursuit by the Press-Citizen of Colloton's private correspondence under the Iowa Open Records Act; an attorney general's ruling rejecting these requests by declaring Colloton, six years into retirement, to be a private citizen; attempts of the Press-Citizen to redefine Colloton as a UI employee to access his private records; an internal investigation at University Hospitals; resurrection of long past settled Wellmark contract negotiations; attacks on the university's emeritus program with a focus on one individual (Colloton) rather than the program per se; and fallacious charges of conflict of interest and lobbying. To us, this coverage has seemed very unfair and has undoubtedly painted a confusing picture for nearly all readers. Some of the individuals quoted seem to have their own agendas, and it is impossible to understand the motivation of others.

Our former boss in all of this, as Cooper pointed out, is an innocent victim of some type of skulduggery at University Hospitals. Because Colloton is being unfairly tainted by this reporting frenzy of the Press-Citizen, we want to paint a more accurate picture for the paper's readers by sharing our perspective as former professional associates of JWC, as we commonly refer to him.

Colloton was a brilliant, inspiring, committed and visionary leader, with an undying commitment to public service and in particular to the patients served by University Hospitals. His uncompromising standard of quality was infectious. He forged a team of staff that was unified in its commitment to excellence, and it was indeed a privilege to be associated with such a principled leader, who led University Hospitals into elite status among our nation's teaching hospitals. That Colloton would be called upon as a confidant by any number of UI presidents and other senior officials -- as well as by governors, regents and other state and national leaders -- comes as no surprise to us. That he would generously and directly offer his perspectives when called upon is no surprise, either.

We can provide assurance that he would offer his view candidly, even if it differed markedly from those seeking his counsel. Although he should be entitled to an expectation of privacy in his communications, the content is undoubtedly nothing that he could not lucidly explain to legitimate parties. In our experience he always has acted only after analyzing all of the relevant facts, with the highest interest of the institution at heart, and with uncommon insight. Not unexpectedly, we think Colloton is assuredly motivated to protect the principle of privacy, as well as the privacy of those with whom he is in communication.

We find it unfair and unproductive that the Press-Citizen and few of the other interviewees have chosen to masquerade behind phony "issues" such as criticizing the university emeritus system or behind strong inferences -- if not claims -- that the nominal benefits conferred by the university to emeritus staff, such as Colloton, who have earned these benefits many times over, are somehow too generous. It is understandable that readers would be confused by all of this. The speculation and innuendo expressed has, intentionally or unintentionally, cast a shadow and raised questions of individual propriety in the minds of readers who have no access to independent, primary information about the programs and issues involved.

Our purpose in this piece is to state that the issues raised in this onslaught of reporting are not substantive or fair. Could they possibly be in retaliation for the attorney general having ruled against the media in favor of protecting Colloton's right to privacy? We remain grateful, as are many others in this community and state, for Colloton's legacy of leadership to UI and for the continued generous counsel that he offers, when called upon by various university and state leaders.

His views and correspondence, rendered as a private citizen, should remain private, in accord with the attorney general's ruling. The Press-Citizen should move on to important issues.
Gerhild Krapf served on the University Hospitals legal staff from 1986 to 1996. Sally Mathis Hartwig served in the nursing administration from 1971 to 1999. Joyce Summerwill served in patient and guest relations from 1978 to 1994.