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Editorial: Come clean on Iowa president search

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We said recently that the Iowa Regents did incoming University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld no favors during the search process.

Now, there's another revelation, and if the Regents don't act quickly to clear the air surrounding Harreld's appointment, his entire tenure could be hampered.

Total transparency is required. Instead, what the university community and the rest of Iowa is getting is one disclosure after another, with each giving the appearance that the Regents favored Harreld, a former IBM executive with no background in academic leadership.

The latest news: Harreld met with Regents Katie Mulholland, Milt Dakovich, Mary Andringa and Larry McKibben on July 30 in Ames, a meeting arranged by Regents President Bruce Rastetter and held at Rastetter's office. It also occurred before the application process for the position closed the next day.

Rastetter wasn't able to attend that meeting, but in a previous disclosure the Regents leader did have a meeting with Harreld on July 8 in Iowa City. That occurred when Harreld was invited to lecture at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, an offer that wasn't afforded to the three other job finalists.

Gov. Terry Branstad and Iowa State University President Steven Leath also talked to or met with Harreld during that period.

All of this occurred before Harreld's candidacy was announced publicly on Aug. 30 and when he was introduced to the university at a forum the next day. At that forum, professor John Scott asked whether Harreld had prior "business or financial dealings" with search committee members or had been promised the job. Harreld said no.

That may well be true, but the way the Regents handled the hiring and the aftermath creates tremendous doubts, which are demonstrated by no-confidence votes in the Regents by both the Faculty Senate and the university's student group. And Wednesday, faculty leaders of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences censured Harreld for a "failure of professional ethics" for inaccuracies on the resume he submitted during the search, The Associated Press reported.

Harreld had listed his job as being the managing principal of a consulting firm, but the firm no longer exists. A Regents spokesman dismissed the complaint, saying Harreld acknowledged the inaccuracy during the campus forum.

Rastetter also dismissed any impropriety in the early meetings with Harreld. In a statement, he said, "I considered Mr. Harreld's requests for these additional meetings on July 30 not only appropriate but due diligence on his part. I appreciate the fact that he was interested enough to want to do his research on the job, and took his time gathering facts."

All this, and Harreld doesn't start his job for another five weeks.

The Regents clearly want to make a change and a statement by hiring Harreld, with his non-academic background. Perhaps he could be good for the University of Iowa, and maybe he still will be.

But the Regents must make a clear accounting of their hiring process. The drip, drip, drip of disclosures and negative votes will make it impossible for Harreld to lead.


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