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.