More signs Bruce Harreld had inside track for University of Iowa presidency

As if the “fix was in” camp needed any more ammunition: weeks before the nine members of the Iowa Board of Regents interviewed finalists to lead the University of Iowa, Board President Bruce Rastetter arranged for Bruce Harreld to meet with four other regents at the Ames office of Summit Agricultural Group. Rastetter is the CEO of that company. Earlier in July, he and three search committee members had met Harreld for lunch in Iowa City after Harreld spoke to senior staff at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, at the invitation of the search committee chair.

Follow me after the jump for more on today’s explosive revelations, as well as yesterday’s decision by a University of Iowa’s faculty group to censure Harreld “for his failure of professional ethics.”  

Ryan Foley reported for the Associated Press,

Board President Bruce Rastetter confirmed in a statement Thursday [September 24] that Harreld met July 30 in Ames with regents Katie Mulholland, Milt Dakovich, Mary Andringa and Larry McKibben. Harreld had dinner that night with Iowa State University President Steven Leath, a favorite of the regents who was hired in 2012. […]

“I considered Mr. Harreld’s requests for these additional meetings on July 30 not only appropriate, but due diligence on his part,” Rastetter wrote. “I appreciate the fact that he was interested enough to want to do his research on the job, and took his time gathering facts.”

Rastetter, Mulholland, and Dakovich served on the 21-member Presidential Search and Screen Committee, but McKibben and Andringa did not. Vanessa Miller reported for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, “Andringa, who joined the board in May [2015], is chair of the regents’ UI Hospitals and Clinics Committee. McKibben is chair of the board’s efficiency review, Dakovich is chair of the board’s property and facilities committee, and Mulholland is president pro tem.”

E-mails the Board of Regents released today indicate that Andringa was quite impressed by what she heard from Harreld in Ames:

“I urge you to continue to give us in Iowa a chance to tap into your great skill set, experience and passion for excellence through strategic change by being open to the Presidency of the U of I,” [Andringa] wrote [to Harreld]. “Higher education, as you articulated in our meeting, is heading toward crisis. Crisis necessitates change – it may be the big challenge that can energize you in the next 5 years!”

Raise your hand if you think Andringa was open to hiring any of the other three finalists the Board of Regents interviewed on September 3 before offering the job to Harreld with a five-year contract.

Christina Bohannan, a law professor who is president of the Faculty Senate, served on the search committee and went to hear Harreld speak during his first visit to Iowa City in early July. Speaking to Jeff Charis-Carlson of the Iowa City Press-Citizen today, Bohannan observed,

“It certainly is getting more and more difficult to believe that the regents meant it when they said they would take campus input into account and that the search was a real search in which all the finalists had a shot,” [….]

Bohannan, who said she did not know about the July 30 meetings until Thursday, said there is nothing inherently wrong with a prospective presidential candidate visiting a campus and seeking out more information before making a decision about whether to apply for the job. […]

But Bohannan said she has concerns about Harreld’s meeting with two members of the regents, Andringa and McKibben, who weren’t on the committee.

“That opportunity gave (Harreld) more time with the people who would ultimately make the decision,” Bohannan said. “The other finalists had only their interviews (with the full board) on the final day.”

Bohannan warned the Board of Regents after the finalists appeared at campus forums on August 31 and September 1 that Harreld had “a clear lack of faculty support,” whereas the other three finalists “garnered tremendous support from campus constituencies.” At the September 8 Faculty Senate meeting where members approved a no-confidence motion in the Regents, Bohannan described Harreld’s hiring as “heartbreaking,” adding that the university and its faculty, staff, and students had been “betrayed.”

Today’s news will only deepen the sense of betrayal and the impression that the other regents tend to rubber-stamp Rastetter’s decisions.

Speaking of things that are “getting more and more difficult to believe,” I increasingly doubt the semi-official line that Purdue University President Mitch Daniels suggested Harreld to the University of Iowa search committee. Daniels has declined to respond to requests for comment from Eric Kelderman of the Chronicle of Higher Education and the AP’s Foley. Why dodge those questions if he either 1) didn’t recommend Harreld or 2) could articulate why he felt Harreld would be a strong candidate for the presidency?

My gut says someone asked Daniels to encourage the search committee to recruit Harreld, in order to conceal the fact that Harreld was Rastetter’s pick already. We may never learn who originally floated the former IBM executive for the job.

Meanwhile, the University of Iowa’s Faculty Assembly of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences approved a motion censuring Harreld on September 23. Excerpt:

whereas incoming President Harreld’s résumé inaccurately claimed the position of managing principal of a company, Executing Strategy, LLC Avon, Colorado, that does not exist; whereas Incoming President Harreld’s résumé fails to cite co-authors for nine of 12 items listed as his publications (as prohibited in University of Iowa Operations Manual Section II.27.10.e Violation 1); the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Faculty Assembly censures incoming President Harreld for his failure of professional ethics.

Click here to read the “Attribution of authorship” section of the University of Iowa Operations Manual.

At his campus forum on September 1, Harreld took responsibility for listing the non-existent company on his resume. However, he has not explained why he did not acknowledge any co-authors, a problem first reported by Bleeding Heartland the day after Harreld’s hiring.

Board of Regents spokesperson Josh Lehman told the AP yesterday, “We’re not concerned about the resume.” Of course they aren’t. Harreld appears to have been the regents’ choice before he submitted his application. “Longtime resume investigator” Christopher Marquet told Charis-Carlson that the resume was “a little bit misleading,” and that problems with it should have been uncovered during the vetting process.

After today’s news, I am more convinced that filling the next vacancy for any state university presidency in Iowa will be a nightmare. Qualified applicants will have no desire to waste their time on kabuki theater.

P.S.-Interim university president Jean Robillard, who chaired this year’s presidential search committee, told a joint meeting of student governments on September 22 that Harreld “is the right fit for the university” and “will be successful as long as he has our support.” Given the favoritism shown to Harreld during the search process and the problems with his resume, he will need to earn that support even more than a typical new college president would. If he’s smart, he will make some gestures toward that end before officially starting work on November 2.

FRIDAY UPDATE: Andy Thomason reported on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s blog:

When asked if Mr. Harreld was the only candidate to meet with members of the board, a board spokesman, Josh Lehman, said in an email that “several” other candidates had met with the university’s interim president and search-committee chairman, Jean E. Robillard, and Mr. Rastetter. He added: “Any candidate that [sic] requested to speak/meet would have been granted that request.”

Lehman didn’t answer the question of whether anyone else seeking the presidency met with members of the Board of Regents who did not also serve on the search committee. I think we can infer from his remarks that no other candidate asked to meet with members of the board. Which makes sense, because the kind of meeting Rastetter arranged for Harreld on July 30 would not be part of any normal university president search process. Same goes for the phone call Rastetter orchestrated between Harreld and Governor Terry Branstad in August.

Eric Kelderman reported on the latest controversy for the Chronicle on September 25:

“It is now beyond dispute that the regents ran a sham search,” said Katherine H. Tachau, a professor of medieval history at Iowa and president of the university’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors. “Why would anyone accord any legitimacy to the person selected under the veil of this process?” […]

Ms. Bohannan said the latest revelations further undermined faculty confidence in the regents and their decision to appoint Mr. Harreld. Worse, she said, the news will make it even more difficult for Mr. Harreld to lead the institution when he takes office, in November.

“All of this is terribly sad for our university because we really want to move forward,” she said. “But it’s really difficult to move forward when you have these additional details about the process coming out. It throws us back into doubt and suspicion.”

Chairs-Carlson and the Associated Press covered a new batch of e-mails released on September 25. How’s this for irony: after his first trip to Iowa City in early July,

Harreld wrote to College of Business dean Sarah Gardial, a member of the presidential search committee whom he met during the visit, to thank her for sharing “the faculty’s readiness and eagerness to take UI to the next level of excellence.”

“Such an atmosphere should make it easy to recruit a great leader,” Harreld wrote in an email released by the university Thursday. “In far too many universities, there seems to be an unnecessary and futile battle between the faculty and the administration. It’s refreshing to see a much healthier environment at UI!”

The circumstances of Harreld’s hiring have guaranteed that the atmosphere on campus this fall will be anything but refreshing and healthy.

Several members of the Board of Regents defended their conduct on Friday, Charis-Carlson reported.

“I could tell that I was invited because I was the chair of the TIER program,” said McKibben, who has overseen the regents’ Transparent, Inclusive Efficiency Review across Iowa’s three public universities. “My conversation with (Harreld) was a deep dive into why we started TIER and how it was progressing.”

McKibben said he spoke with Harreld for about 20 or 25 minutes, sharing that time with Regent Mary Andringa, who chairs the regents’ committee on UI Hospitals and Clinics. The conversation mainly involved Harreld asking questions that McKibben and Andringa answered in detail. […]

Neither McKibben nor Andringa were among the 21 members of the presidential search committee. McKibben said he didn’t speak with any potential presidential candidates other than Harreld, but he would have been happy to. […]

“In my role as a regent, we honor the shared governance of the university faculty and staff,” [Regents President Pro-Tem] Mulholland said. “But shared governance is really different from shared decision-making.”

It certainly is, especially when the deciders pick the guy whom campus stakeholders overwhelmingly consider unqualified.

SECOND UPDATE: Iowa State University President Steven Leath spoke to Charis-Carlson about that July 30 dinner in Ames:

The president of Iowa State University said Friday it was his idea to host a dinner this summer for Bruce Harreld, who was then a prospective applicant for the University of Iowa presidency.

ISU President Steven Leath said that Bruce Rastetter, president of the Iowa Board of Regents, had asked Leath for permission to share his contact information with Harreld, to which Leath agreed. […]

After Harreld and Leath made contact, Leath invited him to dinner July 30 at the president’s residence.

Although dinner with Harreld (as opposed to some other kind of meeting) may have been Leath’s idea, it clearly was Rastetter’s initiative to put Leath in touch with the top prospect for the University of Iowa’s presidency.

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