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IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Five members of the University of Iowa's governing board who would later hire him as school president met privately with former IBM executive Bruce Harreld as he considered whether to apply, bolstering claims that he received favoritism.
Board President Bruce Rastetter confirmed in a statement Thursday that Harreld met July 30 in Ames with regents Katie Mulholland, Milt Dakovich, Mary Andringa and Larry McKibben. Harreld had dinner that night with Iowa State University President Steven Leath, a favorite of the regents who was hired in 2012.
Rastetter, an appointee of Gov. Terry Branstad, said he helped coordinate those meetings but didn't attend. He had met Harreld on July 8, when Harreld was invited to lecture at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Harreld's candidacy wasn't made public until Aug. 30, and the regents voted 9-0 days later to make him the school's 21st president despite a lack of prior experience in higher education administration.
Rastetter's acknowledgment of private meetings is likely to add to anger on campus, where some professors, students and alumni have accused the regents of orchestrating a sham search that favored Harreld every step of the way.
Groups representing faculty and the school's 32,000 students have issued votes of no-confidence in regents for hiring Harreld over their opposition. The regents passed over the provosts of Ohio State and Tulane and the president of Oberlin College, each of whom had wide support on campus.
Harreld, 64, is expected to start Nov. 2 and replace Sally Mason, who stepped down after pressure from the regents.
Rastetter, a powerful agribusinessman and Republican donor, said the July 30 meetings were requested by Harreld "to become more informed about the expectations the Board had for the next president of the University of Iowa" and were part of the recruiting process.
"I considered Mr. Harreld's requests for these additional meetings on July 30 not only appropriate, but due diligence on his part," Rastetter wrote. "I appreciate the fact that he was interested enough to want to do his research on the job, and took his time gathering facts."
Rastetter's statement came as the board released hundreds of emails about the search, including some that revealed planning for the July 30 meetings.
A day after meeting, Harreld sent an e-mail thanking Andringa for her "candor and perspectives on the challenges and opportunities at UI" and sharing a paper he had published about organizational change.
Andringa, the CEO of the Vermeer Corporation in Pella who joined the board in May, responded that it was a pleasure meeting Harreld.
"I urge you to continue to give us in Iowa a chance to tap into your great skill set, experience and passion for excellence through strategic change by being open to the Presidency of the U of I," she wrote. "Higher education, as you articulated in our meeting, is heading toward crisis. Crisis necessitates change — it may be the big challenge that can energize you in the next 5 years!"
The meetings were held at the Ames office of Rastetter's business, Summit Agricultural Group. A spokesman said Rastetter didn't attend because he had "other commitments."
Rastetter noted the 21-member search committee interviewed Harreld and eight others in August, and recommended him as one of four finalists. Rastetter has said Harreld was picked because of business skills such as strategic planning and team building. Harreld was senior vice president at IBM from 1995 to 2008 and then a lecturer at Harvard Business School until 2014.
The private meetings come on top of other suggestions of special treatment for Harreld. The governor had a phone call with Harreld during the search and he was the only candidate invited to campus to lecture by search committee chair Jean Robillard. The regents gave Harreld a salary of $590,000 — $65,000 more than Mason made in her 8th year.
On Wednesday, faculty leaders of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences censured Harreld for a "failure of professional ethics" for inaccuracies on the resume he submitted during the search. The motion noted that Harreld listed his job as the managing principal of a consulting firm that is defunct. Harreld also failed to identify any co-authors on the majority of his listed publications.
Regents' spokesman Josh Lehman declined comment on the censure motion but said regents are "not concerned about the resume," noting Harreld admitted to the inaccurate job listing during a campus forum before his hiring.
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