Sullivan question prompts walkout at Harreld forum

Bruce Harreld -- photo by Adam Burke
Bruce Harreld — photo by Adam Burke

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld dodged questions about minimum wage and administrator pay during a social justice discussion yesterday. The discussion was part of the University’s Spring 2016 theme, Just Living, designed to “explores values, beliefs, and positioning by examining the past and looking to the future.”

Johnson County County Supervisor Rod Sullivan posed a question to the panel about why the University of Iowa failed to raise the wages of its student workers to reflect the county’s minimum wage.

When told that an answer would be provided on their website, Sullivan walked out. He was joined by supervisor candidates Kurt Friese and Jason T. Lewis who also walked out.

Supervisor candidate Jason T. Lewis framed the scene afterward in this video:

“Why is it that the university has chosen not to raise the minimum wage and pay Johnson County’s newly risen minimum wage to the 2700-some students who work for the University of Iowa?

…President Harreld said something but it wasn’t on the mic so I don’t know what it was, and finally a spokesperson from the panel said they were going to try to provide us an answer on the website.

If you convene a panel, and in fact, convene an entire semester’s worth of programming, talking about social justice, understanding that it’s a challenge, recognizing that work has to be done even saying so on the very same panel and then when a difficult question is posed to you, you refuse to answer? We have a lot farther to go to get to anyplace close to justice, if that’s what we’ve got at the University of Iowa.

It’s a great institution, there are a lot of great people that work here, there are a lot of great people who want to do the right things. But it has to start at the top. It has to start at the top because people follow examples.”

Harreld has faced criticism and protest since his hiring was announced last year.

The director of programming and events for the UI office of Outreach and Engagement, Erika Christiansen, had this take on the event and semester programming.

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