New Iowa presidential search committee meetings will be more open, chairman says

IOWA — With a lawsuit pending against the Iowa Board of Regents for violating state open meetings laws during its initial failed pursuit of a new University of Iowa president, the new presidential search committee has said it will be more transparent to the public.

During its first meeting Jan. 26, committee members said they wanted to make the new search process more open.

“We don’t want to create an atmosphere where people are guessing,” Jarjisu Sa-Aadu, a search committee member and University of Iowa finance professor, told the Iowa City Press-Citizen.

David Johnsen, search committee chairman, said because the regents authorize the committee, it is subject to Iowa’s open meeting laws. He said advance notice would be made of all meetings, and meetings would close only when discussing potential candidates by name.

“The meeting, except for executive session, [will] be open,” Johnsen said. “Anyone can come in and watch and listen, but the meeting still centers around agenda set by the committee.”

Iowa open meetings laws permit closed sessions when a public board discusses matters involving personnel, such as presidential candidates.

The committee has not decided whether on-campus public interviews will be held for finalists. Generally, interviews on campus have been standard, but candidate confidentiality has become more common in other university presidential searches because universities claim it allows them to attract better candidates.

Controversy had surrounded the initial presidential search last year as meetings were not made public, were held without notice and few updates were disclosed. The Iowa City Press-Citizen sued the board of regents for violating state open records laws after it held a closed executive session that lasted more than a week in November 2006. That lawsuit is pending in Polk County District Court.

Johnsen said the search committee decided that keeping meetings as open as possible “is the best thing to do now.” The group set a deadline of July 1 to name the university’s presidential finalists.

By Jared Taylor, SPLC staff writer

  • Iowa newspaper sues board of regents for closed meetings News Flash, 1/18/2007