University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld faced chants, jeers and resignation demands as he conducted his first open forum on the campus Tuesday afternoon.
Harreld, who became president four months ago, discussed faculty salaries, student housing and enrollment projections while being repeatedly interrupted by taunts from the audience.
“I think I’m here because I really do care about major public research institutions,” he said, as someone laughed sarcastically. “In spite of the haranguing here, I guess my question is, I hope we can actually get to work and start dealing with some of the issues we face as an institution.”
Critics questioned aloud what they say was a flawed search putting Harreld in charge of the Iowa City campus. He responded. “I’d like to be part of that team,” Harreld says. “I’d like you to accept me as part of that team. On the other hand, I will tell you I’m not naive enough to believe any of the words from anyone at this stage count. It will be our actions.”
During the two-hour forum, Harreld and three senior administrators with him also received sustained applause. He promised future forums. Harreld outlined his vision for the U-I in face of declining state support and limited financial resources.
“The world I see is one that says if you’re on a shoestring and mediocre in a lot of things, good luck, it’s going to be tough,” Harreld says. “I’d rather say there are a few areas, our values and our vision of the future say, we’re going to do really doggone well and make sure we’re excellent in those, perhaps fewer, things. At the same time, I’ll fight for more resources. Let’s not make this a self-fulfilling prophecy that we just give up.”
Harreld is in Ames today as the Iowa Board of Regents conducts mid-year evaluations of the three state university presidents. Critics have bashed Harreld as he came from a corporate background, not academia.
(Thanks to Dean Borg, Iowa Public Radio)