New regent president to focus on naming ISU president

BY LUKE VOELZ | JULY 13, 2011 7:20 AM

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The new state Board of Regents executives will face growing tuition costs, a university lacking a president, and growing demands for transparency in state relations.

Regent President Craig Lang and President Pro Tem Bruce Rastetter will deal with these issues following their election by unanimous vote on Tuesday.

Their elections follow Monday’s resignations of former President David Miles and President Pro Tem Jack Evans, whom Gov. Terry Branstad asked to resign in May.

Branstad’s spokesman Tim Albrecht said he supported the nominations.

“Gov. Branstad has full faith and confidence in both Mr. Lang and Mr. Rastetter and believes they share his vision for the regents’ institutions,” he said.

Lang focused on Iowa State University — his alma mater — in a written statement released shortly after the election.

“Today, I was honored to be elected president of the Iowa Board of Regents by my fellow board members,” he wrote. “While there are many critical issues that the Board of Regents oversees, one urgent matter that I believe is most important is the selection and recruitment of the next president of Iowa State University.”

Lang said the new president should focus on Iowa’s bioeconomy, an issue he said is at the forefront of ISU’s interests.

His support of ISU echoes statements from Tim Albrecht, who said on Tuesday the governor wanted a regent president who will focus on the ISU presidential search and education-spending issues.

Though Branstad supported Lang for the presidential spot, neither Rastetter nor Lang have extensive experience with education-related leadership positions.

Still, the governor’s support played a major factor in some regents’ nominations.

“Before going in front of the state Senate Education Committee for a conference hearing, I heard the Board of Regents needed to build up its credit with legislators and the state and strengthen communication,” said Regent Katie Mulholland. “There is definitely something behind that.”

Improving state relations will help Lang gain support for regent universities in Iowa, she said.

These universities saw a 28 percent cut in regent allocations over the last decade, prompting Miles to petition the House of Representatives for increased education spending.

Though Lang voted for a 5 percent tuition increase in March, he recommended improving communication between the regents and Iowa lawmakers.

“I think we need to put together a plan ahead of time to appeal toward education being a top priority to the state and show them these [universities] are a good investment to the state,” Lang said last spring.

When appointed to the Board in February, Rastetter said he planned to focus on working with both sides of the political spectrum to improve affordable education for the regent institutions.

“It’s important to try to change the [communications] tone that’s existed in recent years, to have the regents reach out to both sides politically and highlight the institutions we have,” he told the DI.

Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, who criticized Branstad’s request that Miles and Evans resign, said he nonetheless supported Lang given the ISU graduate’s six years as Iowa Farm Bureau President.

“He's served on the regents for a while and also was the head of the Farm Bureau, so he’s familiar with large organizations, and I think he’ll ask the right questions [in the ISU presidential search,]” he said.

UI President Sally Mason told The Daily Iowan in an email she supported the election results.

“I am pleased to work with all members of the Iowa Board of Regents,” she said. “These are outstanding people who voluntarily devote time and energy for the good of public higher education in Iowa, and they deserve high praise for those efforts.

Lang and Rastetter’s terms as president and president pro tem will expire on April 30, 2012.

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