Regents reveal secret meetings behind Bruce Harreld hire

Bruce Harreld with a front-row protestor during a University of Iowa town hall meeting in February 2016. — photo by Adam Burke

A report from the Associated Press reveals some dubious dealings in the lead-up to the Board of Regents hiring Bruce Harreld as University of Iowa president in 2015.

According to the report by Ryan J. Foley, the business man was recruited in secret — with Regents flouting Iowa’s open meetings and records laws by using private email accounts and holding a series of meetings on July 30, 2015 without a board majority at the business of former Board President Bruce Rastetter — all in an attempt to get Harreld to apply for the job. Harreld applied a day after these meetings.

Harreld’s hire sparked controversy on the UI campus, with many saying that the system felt rigged — a sense that this latest announcement will likely bolster. When the hire was announced, the Campaign to Organize Graduate Students, the union representing UI graduate students, released a statement that “the hiring process was hijacked by the Board of Regents, resulting in a breakdown of the shared governance system with the University of Iowa faculty.” The University of Iowa Faculty Senate issued a vote of no confidence in the Board of Regents.

Although Harreld had taught at Harvard Business School and Northwestern University, the former executive at IBM, Boston Market and Kraft General Foods did not have a background in university administration. The three other candidates for the position all had experience as university administrators. In a survey developed by the UI chapter of the American Association of University Professors less than 2 percent of faculty respondents said Harreld was qualified. Over 90 percent of faculty respondents said each of the other candidates were qualified. The association later sanctioned the university over the hiring decision.

The information about the meetings in the lead-up to Harreld’s application came out of depositions given under oath by members of the Board of Regents, which were made public Monday. A hearing in the lawsuit brought by former UI employee Gerhild Krapf alleging that Rastetter and four other Regents illegally met with Harreld will be held next week.

For more, read the original AP report: Regents detail secret Harreld meetings during U. Iowa search


  1. section i dictates that a session may be closed to the public if all members present in that meeting vote for it to be closed to the public to evaluate the professional competency of an individual whose appointment, hiring, performance, or discharge is being considered. How is that flouting chapter 21 of the Iowa code?

    1. Harreld met with five board members, a majority, in the same day, but they didn’t meet with him all at once, expressly to avoid having a majority present and running afoul of the open-meetings law. That is their actual defense in court, that they didn’t break the law because they went to the effort of flouting it.

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