Rastetter "blurred the line" between business and Board of Regents

Bruce Rastetter “blurred the line” last year “between his role as investor in AgriSol Energy” and his position on the Iowa Board of Regents, Ryan Foley reported yesterday in a must-read piece for the Associated Press.

UPDATE: Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement posted extensive e-mail correspondence related to Rastetter’s involvement in the potential AgriSol Energy/Iowa State University partnership. Details are below.

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Weekend open thread: Iowa youth activism edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? I’ve been thinking about politically active college students who make the news for reasons other than receiving lewd photos from elected officials.

On June 8, a group of students from the University of Northern Iowa, Iowa State and the University of Iowa testified before the Iowa Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee. The students came to Des Moines to speak against spending cuts for education. The subcommittee’s ranking Republican, State Senator Shawn Hamerlinck, made the hearing newsworthy by telling the group,

“I do not like it when students actually come here and lobby me for funds.  That’s just my opinion. I want to wish you guys the best.  I want you to go home and graduate.  But this political theater, leave the circus to us OK?  Go home and enjoy yourselves.  I want to thank you for joining us and though I have to concede, your time speaking before us is kind of a tad intense.   It’s probably a pretty new experience.  You probably prepared for it for days and you sat there in front of us trying to make sure your remarks were just right, and that’s a good thing.  But actually spending your time worrying about what we’re doing up here, I don’t want you to do that.  Go back home.  Thanks guys.”

We wouldn’t want any civic involvement on our college campuses, would we? Hamerlinck didn’t get the memo: you’re supposed to at least pretend to encourage young people to get involved in the political process. But he stood by his remarks, adding in a statement:

“It saddens me to see bright young Iowa students being misled about our state’s financial situation. Their view of Iowa’s budget is inaccurate and it is my hope that our Regents institutions are educating them on the facts rather than political propaganda.”

I guess Hamerlinck missed the news this week about state revenues coming in strong. It’s incredible that Republicans continue to portray Iowa’s fiscal condition as dire.

Anyway, Senate Democrats spread news of the “go back home” mini-speech through blogs, Facebook, YouTube and e-mail. After the jump I’ve posted a fundraising e-mail blast featuring Hamerlinck’s comments, which I received on June 9. Hamerlinck is considered a rising GOP star, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him run for Congress someday in Iowa’s second district, if he holds his Senate seat. The new Iowa map put Hamerlinck in Senate district 46 (Muscatine and Scott counties), which has a slight Democratic voter registration advantage.

Yesterday I checked out the websites of the College and Young Democrats of Iowa and the Iowa Federation of College Republicans. The front page of the Democratic site features some GOP legislative proposals (cut taxes and spending for higher education and preschool), news from the presidential race and other odds and ends. The front page of the Republican site is full of videos and blog posts about the infamous “F*** OFF” e-mail that a University of Iowa professor sent University of Iowa student Natalie Ginty in April. (Bleeding Heartland discussed that overblown scandal here.) Ginty, who chairs the Iowa college Republican organization, appeared on many national media shows at that time to discuss alleged liberal intolerance on campus.

A group of students from the University of Iowa attended a Board of Regents meeting on June 8 to advocate for phasing out coal combustion at the three state universities. As part of a nationwide Sierra Club campaign, the students delivered signed letters from Iowans and information about the adverse impact of coal.

Rock the Vote released a new analysis this week of how state voting systems serve young Americans. Iowa placed second with a score well above the national average. You can download the full scorecard here (pdf). Iowa gained points in several categories (same-day voter registration, absentee voting, overseas and military voting) thanks to the leadership of former Secretary of State Michael Mauro. We would have lost two points if current Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s voter ID proposal had been enacted.

This is an open thread. Comments on all topics are welcome.

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Tuition going up at Iowa universities

The Board of Regents approved a significant tuition hike yesterday in response to expected reductions in state funding for the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa. B.A. Morelli reported for the Iowa City Press-Citizen,

In-state students at UI, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa will see a 5 percent increase. But there are additional mandatory fees, and out-of-state students and students in specialized programs, such as business, engineering and nursing, will have increases up to 41.4 percent.

Details and background information are after the jump.

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Regents hold off on raise for U of I president

The Board of Regents on Thursday voted not to give a raise to University of Iowa president Sally Mason after her first year on the job because of problems related to a sexual assault investigation last year. She still has a chance to earn large performance bonuses if she meets unspecified targets in the future, though.

Mason fired the dean of students and the university’s lead attorney last week for their handling of the sexual assault case. On Friday she implemented new policies regarding how staff are to deal with reported sexual assaults.

Attorney Marc Mills continues to insist that he was fired without cause and was not leading the university’s investigation into last year’s assault. I don’t know enough of the facts to make a judgment about whether he or Philip Jones deserved to be fired. I do agree with the Iowa City Press-Citizen that the Regents should not have held Mason’s performance review in closed session.

Also on Thursday, the Regents ordered state universities to follow U.S. code regarding display of the flag. Iowa State and the University of Northern Iowa already do that, but the University of Iowa has sometimes lowered the flag as a sign of respect when longtime staff or faculty die. Most recently the flag was flown at half-staff after political science professor Arthur Miller took his own life, which drew criticism because of the criminal investigation surrounding Miller.

I know we have plenty of U of I graduates in the Bleeding Heartland community. How do you feel about all this?

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U of I president sacks dean of students and chief attorney

Two months after the Board of Regents ordered an external investigation of how the University of Iowa handled a sexual assault case last year, two senior university officials got the ax:

University of Iowa President Sally Mason today fired Phillip Jones, 67, vice president for student services, and Marcus Mills, 52, vice president for legal affairs and general counsel.

Mason’s actions came after the Stolar Partnership last week released a report to the Iowa Board of Regents that heavily criticized Mills’ and Jones’ actions after the alleged sexual assault at Hillcrest Residence Hall on Oct. 14, 2007. The review by the St. Louis law firm found “numerous and substantial flaws” in not only the U of I’s response to the assault, but also in its policies, procedures and practices.

According to the Des Moines Register, Mason fired Jones and Mills after they refused to resign, and neither will receive severance pay.

It’s likely to be a career-ending action for Jones, who had worked at the University of Iowa for 40 years. I don’t know him personally, but I have heard good things about him from faculty and former students in Iowa City. Jones refused to comment when contacted by the Register.

Mills spoke out, though:

Mills said Tuesday night he believed he was unfairly singled out in today’s dismissal and in the Stolar report.

“I believe I handled the matter to the best of my ability under the circumstances,” Mills said in a phone interview.

He said he disagreed with the Stolar report’s assessment of his actions. He said he did not have a conflict of interest in acting as U of I general counsel and liaison with the alleged victim’s family.

Mills said investigators did not allow him to give his version of six phone conversations he had with the alleged victim’s father. Mills also disagreed with the law firm’s assessment that he should have asked a judge to permit the U of I to release documents pertaining to the report, he said tonight.

“I’m disappointed that the president and the regents didn’t have an opportunity to get a fuller view,” Mills said.

What do you think? Did Jones and Mills deserve to lose their jobs, or were they scapegoated? Should anyone else be sacked over the way the university dealt with this case?

The Board of Regents delayed Mason’s first performance review until after investigators finished their report. I doubt they will fire her, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she gets no raise, or a smaller raise than the Iowa State and University of Northern Iowa presidents.

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