IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa’s governing board was issued a stern warning that selecting Bruce Harreld as the next school president would badly damage its relationship with the faculty, according to an email released Tuesday.
Harreld, a former IBM executive with no experience in higher education administration, had “a clear lack of faculty support,” Faculty Senate President Christina Bohannan told the Iowa Board of Regents in the Sept. 2 email. Choosing him over three other candidates who were warmly received would “destroy the goodwill” with faculty leaders and prompt calls for a no-confidence vote in the regents, she warned.
A day later, the regents voted unanimously to make Harreld the school’s 21st president and gave him a five-year contract, sparking protests from faculty and staff.
“It is hard to see how the Regents’ relationship with faculty could thrive under such circumstances,” wrote Bohannan, a law professor who was part of the 21-member committee that recommended four finalists to replace retiring president Sally Mason. The board released the email in response to an inquiry from The Associated Press.
The other finalists—Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov, Ohio State University provost Joseph Steinmetz and Tulane University provost Michael Bernstein—“garnered tremendous support from campus constituencies” and choosing any of them would instill confidence, Bohannan wrote.
The Faculty Senate was to meet Tuesday for the first time since Harreld’s hiring. His tenure begins Nov. 2.
Board President Bruce Rastetter has said the regents considered Harreld the best leader for the university and received feedback from the “greater Iowa community” as well as from campus.
Seeking to quell the campus uproar, Rastetter announced Monday he would back a $4.5 million funding increase request for the university next year. The move dropped a plan unveiled last week that would have kept the university’s funding request flat while seeking millions more for the other two schools the regents govern, the University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University.
Rastetter said his change of heart came after meeting with Harreld and other campus groups and becoming convinced that a 1.9-percent increase “is critical” to advance the university’s teaching and research mission.
Interim President Jean Robillard, who led the search committee, told campus in a message Tuesday that Harreld “will make an excellent president who will earn your support.” Acknowledging the debate over the hiring, he said, “We now owe it to our students, our community and ourselves to move forward, focusing on how we can all work together to propel this university to the next level of greatness.”
That might take some time.
The campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors issued a statement Monday that condemned Harreld’s appointment. The group said the choice showed the regents’ repeated “assurances of fairness and transparency in the hiring process” were untrue and ignored the opposition of faculty, staff and students who found Harreld unqualified. The group noted that Harreld’s performance at an open forum before his hiring was widely panned and that he acknowledged an inaccuracy on his resume.
“Only a pre-conceived determination by the regents to appoint Mr. Harreld regardless of campus reactions to him can explain his hiring,” the statement said.
A union representing graduate teaching and research assistants has also blasted the hiring, accusing the regents of trying to destroy the university.