Protesters interrupt Regents meeting

BY IAN MURPHY | MARCH 13, 2014 5:00 AM

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A few University of Iowa students protested an upcoming efficiency study in the state’s public universities during the state Board of Regents meeting Wednesday.

A group of four students interrupted the meeting, standing up and chanting “ditch Deloitte,” and “stop the audit” several times before being escorted out of the IMU Main Lounge.

The efficiency study, which will be conducted by the New York company Deloitte, will search for inefficiencies at the regent universities and highlight ways they can run better. Deliotte will be on campus at the UI starting March 31.

The study will look at all aspects at each university, including facilities, information technology, and athletics. Any inefficient funding found by the study will be reinvested in the universities. The reinvestment will be a way to secure taxpayers’ investments.

The study will cost approximately $2.5 million; the last comprehensive efficiency study was conducted in 1989 at a cost of $1.2 million.

Jeannette Gabriel, one of the student protesters, said she and the other protesters felt decisions made about public universities should be made in a public forum with members of the public present instead of behind closed doors.

“Public institutions’ decisions about how education funding should be used should be made by education experts,” Gabriel said. “This is not about cutting costs, this is about cutting opportunities to learn.”

The universities need to consider better ways to spend their money, Gabriel said, and top officials need to take pay cuts before they move to cut funding for educational programs.

“I think it’s a positive thing when students get involved and express their views,” UI Vice President for Student Life said Tom Rocklin. “But we can’t have them interrupting university business.”

Regent President Bruce Rastetter said this was the first time he has heard of opposition to the efficiency study.

“The information we put out has all been received positively,” he said. “Our interest in doing the efficiency study is to make sure the public universities are as efficient as they possibly can be long term.”

University of Iowa President Sally Mason echoed Rastetter’s statement.

“This is the first that I have heard from students about a concern about Deloitte,” she said, “We want them to be part of the conversation, and hopefully, as we communicate more information, as we have more information, we can clear up any miscommunications or misunderstandings that there might be.”

Corporate law firms will make the decisions, despite what university officials say about listening to the public, Gabriel said.

The study will be led by Mark Braun, President Mason’s chief of staff and chief transparency officer.

“We look forward to Deloitte being on campus and meeting with the groups on campus, including the group today, should they choose to meet with them,” Rastetter said.

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