Throwback Thursday: A year since Bruce Harreld shook up the University of Iowa

One year ago today, the University of Iowa’s Faculty Senate voted no confidence in the Iowa Board of Regents, saying the board “has failed in its duty to take care of the University of Iowa and citizens of Iowa and shown blatant disregard for the shared nature of the university governance.” Five days earlier, the regents had offered the university presidency to Bruce Harreld, passing over three other finalists with substantial support among campus stakeholders and far more experience in higher education.

Harreld’s first year on the job did little to reassure his critics, in part because he’s never acknowledged any flaws in the process that brought him to Iowa City. The American Association of University Professors issued a detailed report last December on the presidential search. Cliffs Notes version: key members of the Board of Regents decided early on to pick a “non-traditional” candidate from the business world, who would preside over “transformative” change at the university; diminished faculty power on the search committee; made Harreld a finalist without a committee vote and despite substantial opposition from faculty; and discounted input from staff, students, and faculty in choosing Harreld over finalists with strong backgrounds in academic administration.

In June, delegates to the AAUP’s national meeting voted unanimously to sanction the University of Iowa for “substantial non‐compliance with standards of academic government” in connection with Harreld’s hiring. Soon after, Harreld commented on the sanctions, “It’s bizarre to me. […] It doesn’t make any sense.” As Mark Barrett noticed, Harreld had the same reaction last fall when asked about controversy surrounding his secret meetings with decision-makers before he formally applied for the presidency: “I find the criticism bizarre, to be really honest about it. […] There is an assumption that I somehow was given preferential treatment. I didn’t see that at all.”

Speaking of bizarre, the University of Iowa will hold a celebration next week to “officially welcome” Harreld to campus, more than ten months after he started work.

I decided to mark this anniversary by cataloguing my coverage of events that inspired the hashtag #prezfiasco. Before Harreld arrived on the scene, University of Iowa politics had inspired only a handful among more than 5,000 posts I’d written over eight and a half years. Some pieces about the Harreld hire turned out to be among the most-viewed Bleeding Heartland posts of 2015.

Readers with a strong interest in this subject should check out Barrett’s more extensive archive of “Ongoing Harreld Hire Updates” at the Ditchwalk blog.

September 3, 2015: Regents pick least-qualified candidate to lead University of Iowa
(published the day the Board of Regents offered Harreld the job)
This post was the second most-viewed at Bleeding Heartland during 2015, finishing behind only a piece that was linked by the Drudge Report.

September 4, 2015: A tip for Bruce Harreld as he adjusts to academic culture
(about Harreld not crediting co-authors of publications listed on his resume)
This post was the fifth most-viewed at Bleeding Heartland during 2015 and also among the posts I most enjoyed writing last year.

September 8, 2015: Regents’ gesture on funding won’t stop backlash against new University of Iowa president
(about an unusual Iowa Board of Regents news release and the Faculty Senate’s no-confidence vote)
This post ranked thirteenth in total views at Bleeding Heartland during 2015.

September 17, 2015: Shifting official line raises questions about Bruce Harreld’s first Iowa City visit
(about Harreld’s previously undisclosed visit to Iowa City several weeks before he applied for the presidency)
This post was the seventeenth most-viewed during 2015.

September 24, 2015: More signs Bruce Harreld had inside track for University of Iowa presidency
(about Harreld meeting secretly with several members of the Board of Regents in Ames, shortly before he applied for the presidency, as well as a University of Iowa faculty group’s censure of Harreld “for his failure of professional ethics”)
This post was the fifteenth most-viewed during 2015.

November 2, 2015: Bruce Rastetter recruited Bruce Harreld earlier than previously acknowledged
(about yet another secret meeting, this time involving Harreld, Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter, university search committee chair Jean Robillard, and university interim chief of staff Peter Matthes; this disclosure undermined Robillard’s previous account of how Harreld’s name came to his attention)
This post was among the top 25 in total views during 2015.

November 11, 2015: New poll is testing messages and attitudes about the University of Iowa
(Bleeding Heartland was the first to report on a statewide poll measuring Iowans’ views about the University of Iowa, including their opinion about Harreld’s job performance)

December 4, 2015: Hasty U of I hospital renaming shows Regents’ contempt for critics of Bruce Harreld hiring
(about the rushed decision to name the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital after major donors Jerre and Mary Joy Stead, with no public input; Stead had longstanding business connections to Harreld and had helped persuade him to apply for the presidency)
Of all my work on Harreld, this one was the most difficult to write. It was the sixth most-viewed post at the blog during 2015.

December 10, 2015: Five troubling aspects of the University of Iowa’s no-bid contracts with Matt Strawn
(Matthes, the university’s project manager for several no-bid contracts with The Strawn Company, attended at least one of Harreld’s early secret meetings and was later tapped by Harreld as a senior advisor)

December 14, 2015: Thoughts on Terry Branstad’s longevity and legacy
(included a transcript of an extraordinary conversation between Rastetter and Governor Terry Branstad, during which Rastetter told Branstad to call and encourage Harreld, at the time a candidate for the university presidency)
I worked harder on this post than on almost any other piece of writing last year; it made the top twenty for total views in 2015.

December 15, 2015: Bruce Harreld walks into “teachable moment”; some critics give the wrong lecture
(about Harreld’s ill-advised comment that instructors who go to class unprepared for their teaching obligations “should be shot,” and a misguided response from the graduate students’ union)

January 18, 2016: Bruce Harreld ignores request for documents on U of I opinion poll, Matt Strawn’s work
(about Harreld not responding promptly to the Iowa Freedom of Information Council’s request that he release documents related to the statewide marketing survey)

February 5, 2016: “Party school” findings shed new light on University of Iowa’s secrecy on polling
(about a report on leaked findings from the University of Iowa’s December 2014 statewide marketing survey, among the documents the university has refused to release)

February 19, 2016: More secrecy and signs of a corporate leadership culture at the University of Iowa
(about how Harreld handled a lucrative contract extension for Athletics Director Gary Barta)

February 26, 2016: guest post by Judith Pascoe, J. Bruce Harreld Spreads the Peanut Butter
(a faculty member’s first-person account of Harreld’s February 23 “town-hall meeting”)

March 4, 2016: Anatomy of a missed opportunity for Bruce Harreld
(about the president’s inadequate response to news that the university’s interim director for public safety had “interfered with an investigation into a hit-and-run drunk driving accident by his stepson”)

March 23, 2016: Local government advocates concerned about Iowa Supreme Court ruling on open meetings
(touched on how an Iowa Supreme Court decision about a scheme to evade open meetings law might apply to the Board of Regents’ conduct during the search for the University of Iowa’s president)

April 27, 2016: Mary Andringa stepping down from Iowa Board of Regents
(among other things, discussed Andringa’s participation in a secret meeting with Harreld before he applied for the presidency)

May 3, 2016: This is not what leadership looks like
(about Harreld showing up for a public forum on social justice unprepared to explain why the university is refusing to comply with Johnson County’s new minimum wage ordinance)

May 15, 2016: Weekend open thread: University politics
(discussed Harreld’s odd graduation message to faculty, staff, and students)

June 2, 2016: Lawsuit claims secret Harreld meetings violated Iowa law
(about a lawsuit filed by a retired University of Iowa employee, claiming that five members of the Board of Regents violated Iowa’s open meetings law by meeting secretly with Harreld in Ames last July)

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