Provost committee leans toward health schools


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A university's president is the face of the institution: the PR outreach, the fundraiser and the ultimate decision-maker. The provost is the one behind the curtain — the person responsible for working directly with faculty and students and creating strategic initiatives.

Once chosen, the University of Iowa's new provost will represent faculty and students from across every college. Which is why some question why representatives from the Carver College of Medicine, the College of Dentistry, the Public Health College, the Pharmacy College, and the College of Nursing — which account for 10 percent of the UI's students — make up almost 40 percent of the committee.

Representatives from two of the largest colleges — the College of Liberal Arts and Science and the Tippie College of Business, with 62 percent of students — make up 12 percent of the search panel.

Still, divvying up representation is easier said than done, according to national experts and UI officials.

It's nearly impossible to represent all cross-sections of an institution such as the UI, with more than 30,000 students and 2,000 faculty members, said governance expert David Shulenberger, the vice president for academic affairs at the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities.

UI president Sally Mason agreed that it can be difficult if a committee becomes to large.

"If it gets bigger than that, it gets hard to manage the workload and to get the people together — that's sort of why we try to get good representation across campus," Mason said in an interview with The Daily Iowan on Nov. 30.

The committee, tasked with replacing former Provost and current University of Maryland President Wallace Loh, was appointed by Mason Nov. 23. It consists of 18 people including students, faculty, and staff at the UI. "We go to great lengths to make sure there is the greatest representation that is possible by colleges," said David Drake, the committee head on the selection and review of higher academic officials— which helped Mason choose the Provost-Search Committee.

When Drake's panel recommended potential search-committee members to Mason, they used a "House of Representatives model," in which the number of nominees from a specific college were based on the number of faculty. But Mason's ultimate selections used something closer to a "Senate model," where each college has one or two representatives. Alumni, academic advising, and the UI Foundation are also represented.

Still, the only person representing the Graduate College is a graduate student. The committee is equally split by sex, though is almost exclusively white.

Experts said the disproportionate health-care emphasis was uncommon, though not necessarily negative.

"I think it's smart to include life sciences," said John Isaacson, the founder of Isaacson, Miller search firm. "Unusual but smart."

Isaacson said the heavily represented sciences may be attributed to the number of faculty and revenue the medical fields bring in.

And ultimately, the one with the last say is the institution's top administrator, no matter how the committee is constructed.

"The final choice is made by the president or chancellor, and the person will balance that sort of thing," Shulenberger said. "The biggest influence is what the president or chancellor thinks he or she needs to make the institution really good."

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