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September 30, 2015

Harreld selection: A tale of two searches

Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act and the diligent reporting of many dedicated members of the press, it is now abundantly clear that the Iowa Board of Regents did not conduct a single search for a new president of the University of Iowa, but two searches: one for "show" and one for "go."

The "show" search solicited nominations from people both inside and outside the university community. Those nominees submitted their credentials to Parker Executive Search, which authenticated the credentials, passed along the completed dossiers to the official search and screen committee, and contacted references.

The "go" search was the sub rosa creation of Bruce Rastetter, President of the Board of Regents. He initiated personal contacts with a handpicked group of potential candidates.

He arranged private on-campus and off-campus meetings for some of these potential candidates with members of the Board of Regents, including some who were serving on the official search committee, and three search committee members (the Interim President of The University of Iowa, the President of the Faculty Senate, and the Dean of the Tippie College of Business). He also arranged for one of the four finalists, Bruce Harreld, to receive a personal phone call from Gov. Terry Branstad.

The "show" search treasured up three outstanding academic administrators with laudable records of leadership at prestigious colleges and universities. Each one gave excellent public statements carefully articulating their vision for the University of Iowa. Students, staff and faculty found all three of these candidates to be highly qualified.

The "go" search yielded a corporately-retired and self-employed business strategist with no academic administrative experience. His public presentation was embarrassingly devoid of vision and revealed him to be entirely unfamiliar with the University of Iowa and with the academic culture of a public research university, despite having previously visited our campus. Students, staff and faculty uniformly deemed this candidate to be unqualified.

The Regents nevertheless chose Harreld, leaving little doubt that the decision had been preordained.

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