University of Iowa President Search Subject of Governance Investigation

Harreld Praises AAUP Report

For more information, contact
Laura Markwardt, [email protected], 202-594-3635

A report released today by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) presents the results of an investigation into the search process leading to the selection of Bruce Harreld as university president in 2015. The report findings include:

  • In contrast to usual practice at the university, which had been to involve faculty fully in presidential searches, the governing board designed this search process specifically to prevent any meaningful faculty role in the selection of the final candidate.
  • The search was structured and engineered by the board’s leadership from the outset to identify a figure from the business world congenial to their image of “transformative leadership.” Once this person was identified, what followed was only an illusion of an open, honest search.
  • Harreld was appointed as president above three other vastly more qualified candidates.
  • The board acted throughout in bad faith, and not only toward the faculty. The board allowed prominent administrators from major higher education institutions to believe they were candidates in an open, honest search when the process in actuality was being manipulated to reach a foreordained result. In this, the board seriously disserved the people of the state as well as the institution to which it owes the highest standard of care.

The AAUP investigating committee submitted a draft report to both the governing board and to President Bruce Harreld. The Board of Regents responded that it believes it “ran a fair and transparent search process” and that it is advised by legal counsel against providing additional comment “due to a matter of pending litigation.”

Responding to drafts of the report made available, President Harreld responded:

I believe the discovery process was professionally executed and find the report to be accurate from my perspective. Thus, I have no comments to add to the draft report.

As I move forward as the president of the University of Iowa, please know I will continue to respect and engage in the shared governance of this institution, as I pledged to do before assuming my duties and as I have done so far in my first two weeks here.

While the report portrays the search as, at bottom, nothing less than a crude exercise in naked power, it concludes: “We believe that it would better serve the interests of faculty and the university to take [President Harreld] at his word while also being vigilant and prepared to act to maintain academic integrity and shared governance.”

Time will tell whether, in the report’s words, the new president “will grow into the position and effectively defend the institution from the worst instincts of its present governing board.”

AAUP investigating committees are appointed in a few selected cases in which severe violations of Association-supported principles and standards on academic freedom, tenure, or governance have been alleged and persist despite AAUP efforts to resolve them. Investigating committees are typically composed of AAUP members from other institutions with no previous involvement in the matter. 

The report, College and University Governance: The University of Iowa Governing Board’s Selection of a President, is available as a .pdf here and will appear in the annual Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors next August.

The mission of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is to advance academic freedom and shared governance, to define fundamental professional values and standards for higher education, and to ensure higher education’s contribution to the common good. Founded in 1915, the AAUP has helped to shape American higher education by developing the standards and procedures that maintain quality in education and academic freedom in this country’s colleges and universities. The AAUP is a nonprofit professional association headquartered in Washington, DC.


Publication Date: 
Thursday, December 10, 2015