The man who faced harsh questioning by faculty members Tuesday in a public forum was named the new University of Iowa president Thursday by the Board of Regents.
Bruce Harreld is a business consultant and former executive at IBM and the Boston Market restaurant chain. Faculty at the university had been against his selection because most of his experience is in corporate America, not academia.
Board of Regents president Bruce Rastetter says they chose the best candidate to make the school better. “What we wanted to do and what we ended up with is someone who has spent his life providing leadership in organizations that he’s been a part of,” Rastetter said, “in terms of collaborating, in terms of team building, in terms of reaching out to disparate groups and involving them, and developing a strategic plan on how you can get better, how you can go from great to greater and how you can be successful by working together collaboratively.”
The Board of Regents unanimously voted to hire Harreld, who spoke to reporters at a news conference in Iowa City.
“This is a great institution, but as I said to a number of faculty and students and the community the other day, great institutions don’t stay where they are,” Harreld said. “They either go up or they go down and I think we have a great opportunity here to go from great to greater — and it’s going to take a lot of work.”
Harreld acknowedged the concern on campus about his choice as a candidate. “I will be the first to admit that my unusual background requires a lot of help, a lot of coaching and I’m going to turn to a lot of the people that were highly critical and really tough on me the other day and ask them if they would be really great mentors and teachers and I suspect and hope all of them will,” Harreld told reporters. “And I know you have a lot of questions of what I’m going to do and that basically is I’m going to do at the outset. I’m going to listen. I’m going to learn and it’s all towards the notion of reinvesting in our core and moving ourselves from great to greater.”
Harreld was asked Tuesday in the forum why he even applied for the job and replied that he thinks he can make a difference. He was asked how he plans to do that.”First of all, throughout the day on Tuesday I met with various constituencies, I heard a number of issues. And I need to go right back to those constituencies and get some sense of order of magnitude and importance and work with them to get them working on improving on a number of issues that they have raised,” Harreld says. “So I’ll be reaching out.”
Harreld says he is a strong believer in “shared governance” and that is what it will take for him to be successful.
“I’m sure we all noticed a little bit of tension on Tuesday — and I think that’s fair — but now we need to move on. Part of that is I need to reach out the people who legitimately think I am not qualified or have gaps, and say ‘will you help me and how can I help you?’,” Harreld says. “So I’ll be working at both of those. And as I am reaching out I will be listening and learning and thinking myself.”
Harreld was asked how the importance of winning over the faculty, and he says it’s very important as “we are here to teach, we are here to learn.” He says he’s already heard from the faculty about “gaps” in what the university does and he wants to work with them to address those gaps.
“If in fact we beat heads — which I doubt very seriously we will — then you have problems. But, I’m not looking for a fight, what I am looking for is to make this institution better, and the faculty are the key role in that process,” according to Harreld.
Regents president, Bruce Rastetter, was asked if it is a risk hiring someone like Harreld who has never held an administrative position at a university. “No I, no I don’t. And I think when you look around the country the complexity of the job of president has resulted in a number of places moving to more non-traditional candidates,” Rastetter says.
A reporter followed up and asked if the hiring sends the message that the university will be run more like a business. “No, no it doesn’t. It sends the message that how we improve the quality of programs and outcomes for students in a continued greater way,” Rastetter says. “Because we also believe that the status quo isn’t acceptable. That there are great people at this university and as we continue to focus on how do we provide the resources, how do we strategically plan, how does the board support that strategic plan to move the university forward. I think all of those factors go into it.”
He talked about the things that sold the board on Harreld over the other three candidates. “His life history of collaboration, of bringing organizations and teams together. Of leadership skills that are principled and value input. Shared governance is extremely important to the board,” Rastetter says.
The Board of Regents approved a 5-year contract for Harreld at $590,000 a year. Former president Sally Mason made $525,828 when she retired. Rastetter says they offered Harreld more money to bring his salary in line with other similar institutions. He will also receive a 5-year deferred compensation package of $200,000.