An Olive Branch From New Iowa President?

October 14, 2015

Faculty leaders at the University of Iowa remain angry that Bruce Harreld, a business executive lacking in experience leading in higher education, was last month named president.

On Tuesday, he issued what looks like an olive branch to his critics, expressing support for many of the things valued by faculty leaders -- qualities that some have feared could be at risk under Harreld.

In an open letter, he pledged support for tenure, saying that it "provides the foundation for academic freedom, protects innovative research and scholarship, and ensures that our students can learn from the best in their fields." He also said he was a "strong supporter" of shared governance, and he praised the university's strengths in the arts and humanities. "I will honor our character, traditions and legacy, enhancing our distinctive strengths in the arts and humanities. Iowa has built an art collection that includes treasures like Jackson Pollock’s 'Mural,' pioneering programs like the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and an academic culture that emphasizes the role of the liberal arts in shaping students’ practical skills and perspectives on life. These form our core, and they must be protected and built upon at all costs," he wrote.

Harreld acknowledged that some doubt him, but said, "I've heard plenty of misconceptions about my vision and values, so let me suggest this: if you hear something that worries you, simply ask me directly. I’ll give you an honest answer."

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