- Members of the American Association of University Professors sanctioned the University of Iowa last week, accusing its board of regents of misleading the campus about the openness of its most recent presidential search.
- AAUP governance committee members said in 2015 that businessman Bruce Harreld emerged as the favorite of regents and led the board to waste more $300,000 in money dedicated to a search firm in its selection of Harreld, who was appointed despite having no experience in higher education executive leadership.
- Critics of the sanction say that the move creates an unnecessary blight for the university instead of its intended targets — the board of regents.
Rarely is there a presidential search at any institution that is free of corporate or political bias. The very nature of public college boards, a governance structure that allows the people to manage the affairs of a large, publicly-owned corporate entity, will always bend to the will of appointing agents or board members who have clout in financial and political areas.
The key for maintaining some kind of transparency in a search is to allow faculty, students and alumni unfettered access to candidates during the finalist stage. By doing that, any political or social conspiracy theories no longer belong to the board and its silence, but to the candidates themselves to prove their ability to navigate tough questions from smart people in the public square.
If nothing else, candidate transparency is the most time-tested audition tool for a president to prove himself a worthy figure in managing personalities, media engagement and campus constituencies on hot topics — a necessary prerequisite of running a college or university.