UI President Bruce Harreld announces his retirement

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld speaks during the dedication of the Elizabeth Catlett Residence Hall. Friday, July 28, 2017. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld announced on Thursday morning his intention to retire before his contract expires in June 2023.

“I have commitments to family and other folks that I need to live up to while I still can,” Harreld, who was appointed president in 2015, told the Daily Iowan. “I’ll turn 70 later this year, so I’m at the twilight end.”

A statement to UI students, staff and faculty posted online struck a less personal and more philosophical tone.

“I firmly believe there is a cadence to life and especially to an institution like ours,” Harreld wrote in the statement. “So, I have been reflecting on our collective cadence. This past summer, I informed the Board of Regents of my desire to retire as soon as a successor can be appointed. In these discussions, I made it clear that I love our institution and will do everything possible to make the transition smooth and successful.”

Although Harreld said he informed the regents this “past summer,” the Gazette reported on Thursday that Harreld submitted a letter about his desire to retire to the board last week, one day before its Sept. 23 meeting.

Board of Regents President Michael Richards told the Daily Iowan Harreld’s letter was “a bit of a surprise” for board members.

It was only 16 months ago that Harreld and the board agreed to extend his contract by an additional two and a half years. The month before that decision, Harreld told the Daily Iowan he wanted a contract extension. His original five-year contract was set to expire at the beginning of November 2020.

Marchers arrive at the office of UI President Bruce Harreld to deliver a letter and petition from Iowa Faculty Forward, April 18, 2018. — Jason Smith/Little Village

In his statement to students, faculty and staff, Harreld doesn’t mention what has changed about the “cadence of life” since he signed his contract extension in June 2019, but certain changes are obvious, most notably the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to protests over Harreld’s approach to handling the pandemic, recently there has also been national attention focused on one example of UI failing to care to for a student infected with the virus, as well as additional budget cuts imposed in response to declining enrollment.

Harreld said he expects the search for his replacement may take 18 months, the Daily Iowan reported. Richards told the Gazette the regents hope to have a new president in place by next fall.

The Board of Regents has scheduled a meeting on Monday to formally accept Harreld’s resignation and begin the search process for UI’s next president.

A protester raises a sign reading “RESIGN” as Bruce Harreld speaks during a UI Town Hall meeting on Feb. 23, 2016. A wide majority of UI faculty were not in favor of his 2015 appointment. — Adam Burke/Little Village

The process that resulted in Harreld’s appointment in 2015 was controversial, and the exclusion of standard faculty input on the selection led to UI being sanctioned by the American Association of University Presidents (AAUP).

The UI Faculty Senate later developed a new guide on the selection process, that led to UI being removed from the AAUP sanctions list in 2018.

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