AAUP Blasts Process Used to Hire Bruce Harreld as U. of Iowa’s President

The American Association of University Professors has issued a blistering assessment of the Iowa Board of Regents, concluding that the process it used to select J. Bruce Harreld as the University of Iowa’s president gave “only an illusion of an open, honest search.”

There is little new information in the AAUP’s 21-page draft report on the matter, which recounts the recruitment of Mr. Harreld, a former IBM executive and part-time instructor at Harvard Business School. Bruce L. Rastetter, the board’s president, and Jean E. Robillard, Iowa’s interim president, courted Mr. Harreld, and Mr. Rastetter arranged for private interactions with other board members as well as a phone call with Gov. Terry Branstad.

After laying out the history of that process, the report says one possible interpretation is that the search was fair but the selection of Mr. Harreld by the board was not, because the regents ignored deep faculty opposition to Mr. Harreld’s candidacy.

But the report’s authors reject that conclusion, finding instead that the search was tainted from the start. “We are persuaded,” the report says, “that the search was structured and engineered by the regents’ leadership from the outset to identify a figure from the business world congenial to its image of ‘transformative leadership.’”

The damage from that search was not only a more-fractured relationship between the board and the university’s faculty, the report says. The search process also damaged the institution’s national reputation by disrespecting the other three finalists, who had been led to believe that they were participating in an honest search.

“It is difficult to see how anyone of intelligence and probity would permit himself or herself to be considered for a future presidency in Iowa,” the report concludes.

The report recommends that in the future the university’s faculty try to work with Mr. Harreld, “while remaining vigilant and prepared to act to maintain academic integrity and shared governance.”

Mr. Harreld declined to participate in the association’s investigation that produced the report, but he did review the draft and responded that it was “accurate from my perspective.”

Fixing the faculty’s relationship with the regents is a different matter, the authors conclude. While Mr. Harreld has reached out to faculty members, as well as students and the staff, “the record of the regents’ actions evidences no similar desire to treat the faculty in a spirit of comity.”

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