Bruce Harreld is set to become the 21st president at the University of Iowa next month, a whirlwind appointment that faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln say highlights the importance of shared governance within a public university system.
Harreld, a former IBM executive who also taught at Harvard Business School and Northwestern University, was appointed by the University of Iowa Board of Regents last month against the recommendation of the university’s faculty, staff and students, Iowa Faculty Senate President Christina Bohannan said.
“The bottom line is we were told this was going to be an open, transparent process and faculty, staff and student input would matter a good deal,” Bohannan said. “It was completely disregarded as far as we can tell, and the regents went in another direction.”
Faculty said Harreld didn't have the necessary qualifications to lead a university and feared he would abandon shared governance for a more corporate structure, while regents said his experience leading organizations outside academia would bring new life to Iowa.
Bohannan led the Iowa Faculty Senate in a vote of "no confidence" in the regents' leadership, and similar votes were cast by student groups active on the Iowa City campus.
The issue spilled over into a meeting of faculty governance leaders at the University of Illinois, too, where several universities -- UNL included -- voiced concern about the loss of shared governance, said John Bender, a professor in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at UNL and president of the UNL Faculty Senate.
“The Iowa situation is one of several that showed rather widespread concerns about shared governance, with an emphasis on the role faculty play in those decisions,” Bender said.
Last week, UNL’s Faculty Senate approved a resolution of support for its colleagues in Iowa, calling on the Iowa Board of Regents “to adhere to the principles of shared university governance and to ethical behavior and transparency.”
“Principles of shared governance dictate that the voice of the faculty, which carries out the core mission of the university, is accorded considerable weight in all important decisions of university governance,” the resolution states.
The vote isn’t a knock against any of the recent administrative searches conducted within the University of Nebraska system, Bender said.
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“Some people were concerned on how this would be taken by the Board of Regents here in Nebraska, but we see what happened at Iowa as being in stark contrast to the way things are done here,” Bender said. “The (NU) Board of Regents has consistently conducted itself in a manner that takes into account the desires and interests of the faculty, and we hope that continues.”
Referring to the search that led to the hiring of Hank Bounds earlier this year, Bender said, “I think the search that was conducted for the president was a good example of how this should be done. We knew who the finalists were, we were able to hear them and submit our thoughts about them afterwards.”
The search for a new chancellor at UNL has also been set up with shared governance in mind, Bender said, as several faculty members have been appointed to a search advisory committee charged with assisting search firm Isaacson, Miller in recruiting and vetting candidates.
Bounds, who started in April, is committed to shared governance and engaging various stakeholder groups in the search for a chancellor to replace Harvey Perlman, who will retire in June, spokeswoman Melissa Lee said in an email.
“Faculty are represented on the search advisory committee, their input was solicited during the development of the position profile, and they will be encouraged to attend public forums with the finalists and share their thoughts,” Lee said. “Feedback from faculty members is an important part of this process.”
The chancellor position has been advertised, while a job description is forthcoming following several meetings between search consultants and UNL stakeholders.
“The Faculty Senate had a role in submitting some recommendations on that committee both for faculty members and others, and a plurality of the members of that advisory committee are faculty members,” Bender said. “At this point, we’re very pleased with the shape that it is taking.”
Bohannan said while it's unclear how the "no confidence" vote will color the faculty's future interactions with regents at Iowa, the campus is ready to begin working with Harreld.
"We're at a point where we want to move the institution forward," she said, "and we've come to a point where we want to separate the issues we had with the process and try to move forward."