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UI officials back Regent Lang's transparency proposals

BY JONATHAN SOLIS | FEBRUARY 01, 2013 5:00 AM

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Two University of Iowa leaders say they support a proposal calling for greater transparency among the three state Board of Regents’ universities.

Regent President Craig Lang submitted a draft proposal last week outlining a revamped transparency policy for all regent schools, including the creation of a transparency officer. The proposal will be discussed at the regents’ meeting on Feb. 6. 

This proposal comes in the wake of criticism from local legislators and media outlets about the opacity of the regent universities’ administrative decisions.

“The number of recent news stories regarding the apparent lack of transparency at regent institutions is troublesome,” Lang said in the proposal.

The proposal outlines a plan to address these concerns and indicates that it should be ready for final consideration by March.

First, regent schools would install a transparency officer to report directly to the regents and consult the president on improving communications. The outline proposes that this role should come from within the university.

In addition, the regents would also establish a new, nine-member Transparency Task Force consisting of Iowa legislators, school representatives, and experts in the field of transparency.
UI officials appear to welcome the regents’ proposal.

“I think it will be beneficial for the institution,” said Mark Braun, the interim vice president for Strategic Communication. “I look forward to seeing what the task force comes up with. I think this is a worthy endeavor.”

UI Student Government President Nic Pottebaum said he also supports the proposal.

“From what I’ve heard, I think any measure in which the university can become more transparent to the students, and to the citizens of Iowa, sounds like a wonderful measure,” he said.

In December, UI President Sally Mason and other administrators were criticized on how they handled sexual-misconduct allegations against a former Athletics Department adviser, as well as a controversy in the UI College of Education that led to then-Dean Margaret Crocco’s resignation.

Lang asked Mason in December to “reprioritize” her goals for the 2012-13 academic year, requesting specifically that she improve the UI’s relationship with the Iowa Legislature and showcase the UI’s positive contributions to the state, The Daily Iowan previously reported.

The regents conducted evaluations of each regent university president on Jan. 29, and, according to UI spokesman Tom Moore, Mason described her evaluation with the regents as “very productive.”
In the transparency proposal, Lang referred to a statement from Bill Monroe, who serves as Gov. Terry Branstad’s transparency adviser. Monroe said that Iowa’s Sunshine laws were written specifically to favor openness in cases in which the law is ambiguous.

“In my opinion, what we’re now seeing is a disturbing trend of transparency decisions being resolved in favor of secrecy,” Monroe was quoted as saying in the proposal.

He goes on to say this secrecy is “eroding the trust of parents, lawmakers, and contributors.”

The Iowa Opens Records law, or Sunshine law, is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels in Iowa. This includes state-funded regent schools.

“Iowans in general are willing to trust their educational leaders, but they insist on verification to ensure that their trust is well placed,” Lang said in the proposal.

Braun agreed.

“One of the responsibilities of public institutions is to increase transparency,” he said. “This seems like another logical step to help access that.”


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