Advertisement

Letter: Harreld appointment undermines rather than building on past greatness


It’s a new day at the University of Iowa. That’s what the Iowa Board of Regents are saying about the selection of the new UI President and former corporate executive Bruce Harreld, a candidate that they actively recruited and who appeared to have inside favor. I wish him well actually. I’m sure he is a smart and capable person. Oddly, the problem and controversy here is not personal, even though his selection and the process involved epitomizes a seismic shift in higher public education.

Terry Brandstad’s Board of Regents made little pretense in this charade of a selection process. The last UI presidential search took months. This one took 2 weeks. The regents claim it was an open process, and it was. Open for everyone to see how transparently predetermined, rushed and without serious vetting it was. Perhaps we can dispense with the formalities next time and just have Gov. Brandstad anoint the next UI president.

He will make $60,000 more than former president Sally Mason and was offered a guaranteed tenure position; this for someone who, by any reasonable standard and by his own admission, has neither the training nor the experience for this job.

That Mr. Harreld had a 2.5 percent faculty approval rating after the four candidates had presented themselves to the UI community is widely known. The other candidates were in the high 80 and 90 percentile. The regents flagrantly ignored any “faculty input” and put their guy in. He will make $60,000 more than former president Sally Mason and was offered a guaranteed tenure position; this for someone who, by any reasonable standard and by his own admission, has neither the training nor the experience for this job.

Yes, it’s a new day here at the UI, and it can be summed up in one word: “numbers.” High enrollment classes (i.e., the most popular) are kept; those that the marketplace deems unworthy are removed, regardless of quality or content. Lofty mission statements now ring hallow as the three once proud Iowa universities grovel and compete for the same lucrative Iowa student. And how do you capture this prized native? By marketing of course. Glitzy ad campaigns and shinny pamphlets will promote the coolness and fabulous facilities of each school. It’s all about making the Iowa student happy and confident that the commodity they (and their parents) are buying is worth it. Considering Mr. Herrald’s expertise in corporate branding, his appointment makes perfect sense.

When president Harreld and the regents laud the UI as a great university, do they stop to consider how it got that way? Was it a vibrant and motivated community of professors (both tenure and non-tenure), inspired department heads, dedicated professional staff, gifted graduate students, leading researchers and a student body that was region-friendly but also international and diverse? Were past presidents experienced administrators who understood the value of shared governance and the role of true public higher education? Were the universities properly funded by the state as a shared public benefit?

But this a new day and we are told that “fundamental change” is required, as the “status quo is unsustainable.” Yes, innovation and growth is essential for any institution. But Mr. Herreld’s presidential anointment does not build on past greatness; it undermines it. The diverse liberal arts education that a healthy democracy requires, the kind that has benefited all Iowans since 1847, is not compatible to the bottom line mentality of a cash starved UI Inc™. Iowans should consider what this new day brings. Who profits? Who wins? Who benefits? Unless you’re in that select group of connected, corporate businessmen that get personal phone calls from the Governor, it won’t be you.

James Dreier, Lecturer, University of Iowa


Thoughts? Tips? A cute picture of a dog? Share them with LV » editor@littlevillagemag.com

Advertisement

stanleymuseum.uiowa.edu/events

Advertisement

Summer Programs 2020

Get 150+ local restaurants delivered to your door in the Iowa City & Cedar Rapids areas!

Don’t let other people’s opinions win.

Vote for your favorite people, places and events in the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids area! In a time when local businesses need our support more than ever, your vote will send a little love to the places that make our community special. And don’t forget to tell us why—the best comments will be published in our December Best of the CRANDIC 2021 issue! Voting ends September 30.

Read the Best of the CRANDIC issue, on stands now

The Future is Unwritten

You look to Little Village for today’s stories. Your sustaining support will help us write tomorrow’s.

Regular

$10/mo or $120/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
The cost of doing this work really adds up! Your contribution at this level will cover telephone and internet expenses for one month at the LV editorial offices.

Italic

$20/mo or $240/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
$240 is enough to cover one month’s costs for sending out our weekly entertainment newsletter, The Weekender. Make a contribution at this level to put a little more oomph on your support and your weekend.

Bold

$30/mo or $360/year
(AUTO-RENEW)
LittleVillageMag.com connects eastern Iowa culture with the world. Your contribution at this level will cover the site’s hosting costs for three months. A bold move for our boldest supporters!

All monthly and annual contributors receive:

  • Recognition on our Supporters page (aliases welcome)
  • Exclusive early access when we release new half-price gift cards
  • Access to a secret Facebook group where you can connect with other supporters and discuss the latest news and upcoming events (and maybe swap pet pics?) with the LV staff
  • Invitations to periodic publisher chats (held virtually for now) to meet with Matt and give him a piece of your mind, ask your burning questions and hear more about the future plans for Little Village, Bread & Butter Magazine, Witching Hour Festival and our other endeavors.