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UI community shares thoughts and concerns on search process

BY DI STAFF | FEBRUARY 23, 2015 5:00 AM

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University of Iowa students, staff, and faculty gathered Feb. 20 at three separate hearings to discuss the search process to find a replacement for President Sally Mason. Turnout was low at all three, but officials said the forums were only the beginning.

Students

UI student Rachel Zuckerman described accessibility, or the lack thereof, as “one of President Mason’s shortcomings.”

“We want a president who will be vulnerable and honest when it comes to vocalizing and discussing difficult issues like sexual misconduct, racial discrimination, and mental-health improvement,” she said.

In response to repeated criticism of Mason by students at the forum that she was inaccessible to them, UISG President Patrick Bartoski responded and defended Mason.

“The reason President Mason was not always as communicative as she would have liked was because she was frequently fundraising for the university,” he said.

Bartoski said students should take into consideration the necessity for the president to raise money for the university.

He said the forum was a success and that, although he wished the attendance had been higher, “it was good to see students be so vocal.”

“We want to extend as many opportunities as possible for students to express their opinions and desires for the next president,” he said. “With the next president, we’d like to see more opportunities for shared governance between the president and the UISG, which would only provide students with more of a voice.”

Bartoski also said that he would like to see more efforts by the next president to expand upon the AIB College of Business in Des Moines, and he believes there are opportunities at AIB to expand employment and development for the university.

Currently, the UI has proposed to covert AIB into a regional regents center it would own and operate and rent space to other interested institutions. The plan is still subject to regent approval.

— by Thomas Jardine

Staff

“The most important thing is that we have everyone’s opinion,” said Chuck Wieland, the president of the UI Staff Council, during the meeting. He was part of a panel facilitating the forum.
However, the meeting, which was scheduled for 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., lasted only about 15 minutes and fewer than 15 people appeared.

One staff member showed up after the meeting adjourned and said he was “frustrated” it ended early.

“It’s like voting,” said Eric Holthaus, UI sustainability coordinator. “If people don’t go, do you stop collecting votes?”

Wieland said during the meeting a survey of attributes for the next president would soon be created and sent out to all staff.

Laurie Haag, program developer at the Women’s Resource and Action Center, said she wanted to “emphasize the importance of an advocate for Title IX.”

Title IX is a component of United States educational law preventing sex discrimination in programs receiving federal money.

Speakers also brought up the issues of campus safety in terms of sexual misconduct.

“Things related to sexual assault on campus have been ignored to some degree in recent years,” Haag said. “I just would like to see someone who takes all of these things seriously and is committed to providing and open and equitable environment for all of us.”

Other staff members spoke up about sustainability at the university and the importance of maintaining it, including George McCrory, communications specialist in the Office of Sustainability.
McCrory also emphasized the necessity of strong communication.

“It’s important to have a president who can not only communicate to external groups but also on campus,” he said. “You have a wide variety of audiences to talk to, and you just need to be an effective communicator to as many as possible.”

— by Noelle Alkhawaja

Faculty

The faculty meeting was marked by deep — and at times difficult — questions, and the discussion ran 15 minutes over the scheduled time.

University of Iowa Faculty Senate officers, including Faculty Senate President Alexandra Thomas and Vice President Christina Bohannan hosted the forum. Thomas and Bohannan both serve on the search committee to help find a replacement for retiring President Sally Mason.

Journalism Professor Gigi Durham raised a question about the university acting as a company instead of a research institution.

“I feel like there’s more and more of a tendency to treat the university as a corporation,” she said. “And we get a lot of the corporate speak where it sounds like students are just widgets that need to be moved through on a conveyor belt.”

While the faculty agreed education was an important part of the university, they emphasized the need for a business-minded candidate.

“Whoever comes in needs to appreciate the humanities and needs to absolutely appreciate graduate and professional education that’s really important,” Bohannan said. “But they do need to be business savvy … not necessarily business driven, but business savvy is very important to help us do the things we want to do.”

UI radiology Associate Professor Laura Ponto asked about the role a consulting firm will play in the search, given the presence of open nominations and an in-house search committee.

In the light of the controversial firing of field-hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum last year, another issue faculty raised was gender equality in the Athletics Department.

Although the panel said it’s sometimes difficult for faculty to address issues such as athletics, because of their limited involvement in them, they said it will be an important part of whom they search for.

“[What] I’m looking for is a proven track record,” business Dean Sarah Gardial said. “You see that a lot around things like fundraising, but I think when it comes to equity and diversity issues, it’s just way too easy to wave the flag. I want to see someone who’s done it; I want see evidence, and behaviors, and programs.”

by Ben Marks


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