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Gartner says UI president fight won't push him off regents board

Mike Glover

Iowa City Press-Citizen and Associated Press

December 14, 2006, 1:02 a.m. EST

[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.]

JOHNSTON, Iowa (AP) -- Board of Regents President Michael Gartner says withering criticism that he's faced during a prolonged presidential search at the University of Iowa will not push him from his post.

State legislators and others have called for Gartner to resign amid university faculty votes of no confidence in the board's leadership. Gartner said he intends to hold his post until his term expires in 2011 and withstand what he calls a power struggle from faculty and staff.

"It's not about the president search," Gartner said of the faculty's discontent with regents. "It's really a governance issue."

Gartner spoke Wednesday during a taping of Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press" program airing this weekend, and he cast the dispute in the starkest of terms. If the regents retreat on the issue and give faculty more power in choosing the next president, they would be effectively giving up control over the university, he said.

"The issue is who governs the University of Iowa. ... The issue doesn't appear at Iowa State, it doesn't appear at (the University of Northern Iowa)," he said. "It's sort of an Iowa City issue."

Gartner said the ongoing tension over controlling the college burst into public view with the presidential search, which began after David Skorton announced in January that he was leaving to become president of Cornell University.

Last month the regents voted to reject all four finalists offered by an initial search committee, and then voted to dissolve the committee and start the search over. The decision has prompted university faculty groups to pass no confidence resolutions against the regents.

Regents have planned a meeting for Monday to begin planning another search that will likely end next summer.

Gartner said he's talked with members of the nine-member panel and come up with some early conclusions.

"Everybody feels it should be a smaller committee, I think everybody feels it shouldn't be chaired by a regent," said Gartner. "I think everyone feels that nobody involved in the most recent search should be involved in the next one."

Gartner said he would work to involve deans of the various colleges in the search because they work with the president daily. Those who donate to the college should also have a voice because a key duty of the president is raising money, Gartner said.