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IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — University of Iowa faculty leaders expressed outrage Tuesday over the selection of corporate executive Bruce Harreld as the next university president, accusing the school's governing board of conducting a sham search that ended with the hiring of an unqualified leader.
Professors who packed into the Old Capitol building in the middle of campus erupted in cheers as the Faculty Senate issued a vote of no-confidence in the Iowa Board of Regents.
At least 46 members of the 80-member senate raised hands to vote for the largely symbolic measure, which said the board had failed the university and the state's citizens by hiring Harreld. The motion said the board had shown a "blatant disregard for the shared nature of university governance" and failed to live up to its own standards for ethics, communication, transparency and other values.
The nine-member Board of Regents, appointed by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, hired Harreld over three other finalists last week to replace retiring President Sally Mason despite his lack of experience in higher education administration. Harreld is a former senior vice president for strategy and marketing at IBM, a former lecturer at Harvard Business School and a former president of the restaurant chain now known as Boston Market.
The decision — and the way the search was handled — has sparked protests among faculty, staff and students. A survey showed that campus groups overwhelmingly thought Harreld, who struggled during a campus forum last week, was unqualified. Critics also accused Harreld not vetting his resume after he admitted he listed his current position as the principal of a corporation that no longer exists. He also failed to give credit to co-authors on several papers he listed, violating a bedrock academic principle of proper attribution, professors said.
In picking the 64-year-old, regents passed over Ohio State University Provost Joseph Steinmetz, Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov and Tulane University Provost Michael Bernstein. Campus groups overwhelmingly favored any one of them, finding all three qualified.
"I think this university has been betrayed — faculty, staff, students, all betrayed," said Faculty Senate President Christina Bohannan, who was part of the 21-member search committee that recommended the four finalists.
She said the regents didn't listen to faculty feedback despite promises that they would. She said she sent an email last week warning them not to hire Harreld in "a last-ditch effort to be absolutely clear" what was at stake. The email, released Tuesday, warned the choice would "destroy the goodwill" between regents and faculty leaders and likely lead to a no-confidence vote.
Several senators said the vote was the first step of a larger public relations push to persuade Iowa residents that the regents were mismanaging the university. They accused regents of wasting money on an outside search firm that failed to catch the inaccuracies in Harreld's resume and of flying three finalists to campus whom they had no intention of considering for the job.
The Faculty Senate, which includes representatives from all academic units and is the principal channel of communication between faculty and the administration, was the latest group to rebuke the regents.
The campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors issued a statement Monday saying the regents made "a pre-conceived determination" to hire Harreld and apologized to the other three finalists for the way they were treated. A union representing graduate student teaching and research assistants last week accused regents of trying to destroy public education.
Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter, a businessman and top donor to Branstad, defended the hiring Tuesday evening, saying the board heard from "stakeholders all across Iowa about the type of qualities and leadership needed at the University of Iowa."
"The board unanimously thought Bruce Harreld's experience in transitioning other large enterprises through change, and his vision for reinvesting in the core mission of teaching and research, would ultimately provide the leadership needed," Rastetter said. "We are disappointed that some of those stakeholders have decided to embrace the status quo of the past over opportunities for the future and focus their efforts on resistance to change instead of working together to make the University of Iowa even greater."
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