J. Bruce Harreld pens letter to UI community: ‘Why I came to Iowa”

“Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the chance to talk with individual faculty, students, staff, and others about what drew me to the University of Iowa,” writes J. Bruce Harreld in “Why I came to Iowa,” an essay published by the UI this afternoon. “I’d like to take this opportunity to start a broader conversation,” he writes, and what follows is a neatly packaged, near-thousand-word make-up letter to the UI faculty, staff and students who are now to defer to his guidance as university president.

Expounding on the essay’s titular premise, Harreld cites his own academic background as evidence of his good-faith acceptance of the presidency for which he was afforded a 3 percent approval rating: “I am a graduate of a public research institution, and I believe these institutions are the foundation of our future.”

In addition to this and other vague platitudes — Universities “make our individual and collective lives better,” UI’s culture “sincerely wants every student to succeed,” Iowa is “unique place with an essential purpose” and “Our goals are timeless, but our circumstances new” — Harreld takes the opportunity with this, his first public address to the University of Iowa community, to address certain of the complaints and concerns levied against both him and the Iowa Board of Regents of late.

Mentioning that he’s “learned much” over the past month by speaking “with faculty members, staff, students, alumni, and friends,” Harreld says he supports faculty tenure and the “history of shared governance” on campus and opines that “we must invest in our people.” Harreld also promises to honor the arts and humanities at Iowa shortly after namedropping the Iowa Writers’ Workshop — perhaps the only prong of UI’s humanities umbrella whose fame renders it’s budget untouchable — and Jackson Pollack’s Mural.

“Our success requires consistent, honest communication,” writes Harreld, whose partially fabricated resume drew ire during the presidential search committee’s vetting process. “I’ve heard plenty of misconceptions about my vision and values,” he writes before making a request: “If you hear something that worries you, simply ask me directly. I’ll give you an honest answer.”

As it happens, Mr. Harreld, Little Village has several questions we’d like to ask you (as indicated weeks ago in a request for comment). We were told, however, that you wouldn’t be doing press until November.


  1. Actually, I haven’t heard a single person ask or wonder why he was interested in Iowa. It’s an irrelevant way to frame the letter and a bit of an insult, it seems to me. Why would such a titan of industry–or at least of roasted chickens–be interested in little old us? No, we’ve been asking why he thinks he is qualified to get a even sniff from us. So he wants to assure us that we are up to his high standards and that he will deign to respect our traditions. As if he understood them.

  2. Don’t think he came to Iowa for the scenery. Looks like he will be slumming it here.

    Apparently the Harrelds sold a property in Cambridge MA for about 2 mil end of 2014
    Still may own properties worth a couple mil each in New Canaan CT, and Fernandia Beach Fl.

    And one in Portland OR?

  3. This vanilla appeal fits in with the non-committal acceptance by the large donors that was published recently. When the best a donor can say is “he seems like a nice guy, give him a chance” that doesn’t fill me with confidence.

    And why hasn’t any Regent explained why they chose him? What in his resume or his interviews made them make such a bold, and unpopular choice?

    All I’ve read is mild scolding and very vague ” new direction”and not the “status quo” mixed in with generic platitudes from the BoR and Branstad..

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