The newly elected president of the Board of Regents, Mike Richards, joined the board last May filling a spot left open by the resignation of Mary Andringa resigned.
He told Radio Iowa that he had to do a lot of talking with family, friends and other board members before taking over the leadership role. “Initially I did not seek it out, and then over the last month or two as the situation changed and the leadership with president Rastetter and (president pro-tem) Katie Mullholand both departing, several people did talk to me and asked that I consider it,” Richards says.
Richards says the biggest issue facing him is hiring a new president for Iowa State University. “We have a selection committee that has already been put in place, and they haven’t quite started their work, but we have great leadership on that,” Richards says. The search for a new ISU comes after the board selected a new president for the University of Northern Iowa in December. Richards doesn’t think the turnover in the stop spots at the schools is anything unusual.
“I think we’re solid,” Richards says. “I think we have some of the best schools in the country that people want to come to work and be president there.” He says coming to a decision on tuition increases is also a key issue. Richards says the board staff is putting together a task force to review the issue.
He says they will meet with the students, the public, parents and the legislature about “how we fund our universities and the role that tuition plays in them.” The state budget tightening is at the center of the tuition talk, and Richards says funding for the schools is key.
“We want to work with the legislature so that we can give more clarity and advanced clarity to the students as they prepare their own budgets,” Richards says. Richards says he wants to ensure that the discussion on the new ISU president, tuition and other issues are transparent, so he plans to institute more public access at the board’s monthly meetings.
“To help with this transparency, I think that we are going to have an opportunity for the public to comment at the board meetings,” according to Richards. The board holds hearings before the meetings that are taped and then reviewed, but they have come under criticism because people say they aren’t able to speak directly to the board members. Richards says going back to public comment during the meetings is not a response to that criticism.
“It’s not so much a reaction to those concerns, but it is the direction that I want to go to increase the public transparency and to just allow people to have a voice,” Richards explains. Regent Pattie Cownie of Des Moines was elected president pro-tem. Their terms as president and president pro-tem will end April 30th of 2018.