The president of the nine-member board that governs the University of Iowa says he will not succumb to what he describes as a poisonous atmosphere in Iowa City and leave his post.
The U-of-I Faculty Senate and Iowa City-area legislators have called for Board of Regents president Michael Gartner to resign over the break-down in the search for a new university president. “I don’t think that this Mardi Gras atmosphere adds anything to it,” Gartner says. “It’s almost like a lynch mob some days and that’s not good.”
Gartner, the owner of the Iowa Cubs baseball franchise in Des Moines, says he intends to serve out the remaining four years of his term on the Regents. “If I resigned I think that it would set the system back for another 20 years. I’m not particularly enjoying my life right now, especially with spring training just around the corner,” Gartner says. “It’s very important that the Regents do what the law says they are supposed to do, which is be a governing body for the three universities and to hire a president.”
According to Gartner, the controversy — at its core — is not really about the search for a new university president. “The issue is who governs the University of Iowa — the Board of Regents or various aspects, at the moment, of the faculty over there and I think that’s the issue,” Gartner says. “The issue doesn’t appear at Iowa State. It doesn’t appear at UNI. It’s sort of an Iowa City issue.”
Gartner says he’s not bothered by campus critics who have complain about his management style. “I don’t understand where they’ve seen my management style…Most of those critics have never seen me or met me,” Gartner says. “There’s kind of the herd mentality going on at the moment, or piling on, but that’s o.k. That’s what freedom is all about: say what you think even if what you think is not based on fact or informed opinion.”
The Board of Regents will meet Monday to start a new presidential search, and Gartner said some consensus is emerging among the Regents as to what the committee should look like. According to Gartner, the next search committee probably will not be led by a member of the Regents and it will not include people involved in the last search. Gartner says his own belief is that one of the deans at the University of Iowa should lead the search.
In addition, Gartner says private donors are a huge factor in keeping the university operating, and donors should have a voice in the selection of a new president. “It has to be somebody that not only is acceptable to the deans, it has to be somebody who can raise money,” Gartner says. “The best people who can judge that are the people who give money.”
Gartner says he has not talked with Governor-elect Chet Culver about the search, partly because the Board of Regents is set up to be a buffer between the university and politicians.
Gartner made his comments during this afternoon’s taping of the “Iowa Press” program which airs Friday at 7:30 p.m. on Iowa Public Television.