College and University Governance: University of Iowa

Published December 2015.

This report describes departures from shared governance standards in the hiring of new University of Iowa President J. Bruce Harreld, appointed by the Iowa Board of Regents in spite of overwhelming objections from faculty. The investigation found that in contrast to historical practice at the university, which had been to involve faculty fully in presidential searches, the board designed this search process specifically to prevent any meaningful faculty role in the selection of the final candidate.

After UI Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter disbanded the 21-member presidential search committee that had included six faculty members, the regents appointed Harreld, who was far less qualified than three other semi-finalists, who each had strong academic credentials and support from faculty and other members of the campus community. On September 8, the faculty senate voted no confidence in the board for its “blatant disregard for the shared nature of university governance.”

In response to a request from Katherine Tachau, president of the UI AAUP chapter, AAUP national executive director Julie Schmid appointed an ad hoc investigating committee to assess the situation. Members of the committee were Matthew Finkin, chair of the investigating committee and professor of law at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Michael DeCesare, chair of the AAUP's Committee on College and University Governance and professor of sociology at Merrimack College.

The committee examined abundant documentation and, on October 16 and 17, visited Iowa City, where it met with current and former officers of various faculty bodies, a former regent, and others who had useful information. Representatives of the regents and of the interim UI administration declined to be interviewed. Prior to releasing its report, the committee circulated a draft for comment to the concerned parties, including President Harreld, who assumed his position on November 2.