UI spends $13,000 on provost search, down from 2008 search

BY LUKE VOELZ | JUNE 17, 2011 7:20 AM

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The University of Iowa spent almost $13,000 on a search that would lead to the permanent appointment of the interim provost, according to documents released Thursday. However, Provost P. Barry Butler’s selection was less taxing on the UI’s wallet compared to past provost searches.

Records obtained by The Daily Iowan show expenses for the 2011 provost search cost just under $13,000 — $40,000 less than the 2008 search that lead to Provost Wallace Loh’s appointment.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said the university reduced costs by conducting the first round of interviews via video conference, costing $2,029.

Later rounds of interviews, conducted on-campus, cost approximately twice as much.

“I think the search committee did a fantastic job both of identifying strong candidates and doing it in a very cost-efficient manner,” Moore said.

Regent Robert Downer said UI officials’ choice not to use a search firm also reduced spending.

“I do think [the $13,000 cost] is reasonable when you’re talking about this being a relatively low percentage of salary,” he said, noting that the organizations can charge one-third or greater of the new employee’s salary.

“To have a search for a position of that importance in terms of success of the university and being able to represent the academic side of the institution — that’s quite modest,” Downer said.

Advertising was the most expensive factor to the search at slightly more than $5,600.

Rep. Jeff Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said he was satisfied with the expenses, given the normal cost of searching.

“It is not at all unusual to have searches draw somewhere in the vicinity of a third of the compensation of the individual involved,” Kaufmann said. “And this rate [of $13,000] would be 3 or 4 percent. I think this is a very reasonable cost.”

Documents show the provost search committee strongly favored Butler during the election process.

“I can’t think of anyone better suited to this position or more committed to the University of Iowa than Barry Butler,” UI President Sally Mason said in a May 17 press-release following the announcement. The state Board of Regents voted unanimously to approved Butler’s appointment on June 8.

Records released this week also showed UI faculty and administrators seemed to favor Butler overwhelingly.

Surveys distributed to the committee listed whether provost candidates Butler, Yash Gupta, and Uday Sukhatme demonstrated the ability to serve as a leader, an understanding of the university’s mission and support of interdisciplinary studies.

Butler received “yes” responses of 85 percent or greater in all categories, though Sukhatme ranked close behind at around 75 percent overall. Gupta’s positive responses averaged 45 percent.

However, Moore said, he didn’t believe the UI strongly favored any candidate during the search process, because the search was an equal-opportunity procedure open to all candidates.

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