The Iowa Board of Regents is demanding more information about the legal settlement paid to a University of Iowa law professor who resigned amid controversy last year. On Sunday, the Des Moines Register reported the U-of-I paid Kenneth Kress more than $200,000 in cash after he resigned after admitting he faked some student evaluations.
The university also agreed to continue providing Kress with health care benefits, on-campus office space and a research assistant. Iowa Board of Regents president Michael Gartner says one of the lessons here is that such things shouldn’t be swept under the rug.
"It’s quite ironic that this is the university that has attacked the Regents for not being open," Gartner says. "…This is taxpayers’ dollars that we’re talking about here." Critics on the University of Iowa campus have complained about secrecy in the Regents’ process of selecting a new president for the institution. Gartner says the public might never have known about the university’s high-dollar pay-out to this law professor if a reporter hadn’t dug into it. "You cannot pretend that it doesn’t exist. You must face up to it," Gartner says. "Early and full disclosure is very, very important."
Iowa Board of Regents executive director Gary Steinke says the board knew nothing about the settlement until they read about it in the newspaper. "When I read it in the newspaper and I know that when several Regents read about it in the newspaper on Sunday, we were all very surprised," Steinke says. Steinke met with the board’s attorneys this morning to determine when it’s appropriate for the universities to disclose such settlements.
Steinke says while they want to be informed, they have to protect a professor’s right to appeal to the board to reverse a university’s decision. "To know a lot about these issues ahead of time wouldn’t be proper, but settlements like this the Regents believe should certainly come to their attention before they make the newspaper," Steinke says.
Gartner, the Board of Regents president, sent a note to all the Regents this morning, asking that a policy be developed so the board is informed of ethical lapses on campus. "We are the mechanism by which someone can appeal a decision that the administration makes, but that doesn’t mean that we should be in the dark," Gartner says.