As expected, the selection of a new president of the University of Iowa is sparking plenty of thoughful analysis, hand-wringing and bloviating about the choice of a former corporate chieftain with relatively little academic experience as the institution’s new leader.
Are we who decry this choice being fair? Or is ours a knee-jerk reaction to a decision that could bring necessary and helpful changes to one of our leading universities?
A couple of fine pieces of interpretation have come from former University of Iowa professor Steve Kuusisto. Kuusisto’s blog Planet of the blind: It’s not as dark as you think has perhaps the best quick summary, at least from a common academic perspective, of the political background of the selection.
Kuusisto’s characterization of Iowa regents is none too kind, which raises the question I asked myself both before and after my own short post Friday criticizing the selection.
Taking a step back and approaching issues with as much objectivity as possible are two hallmarks of both science and journalism, my own area of teaching and research. So is interpretation. I’ve thought about my own Friday post a bit this weekend, as it was a clearly pessimistic and skeptical take on Bruce Herreld’s selection.
The question of fairness to Herreld and Iowa’s leadership is too complex to answer in a single blog post. For most observers, it’s not one that can be answered with anything close to public agreement until we’ve had the benefit of looking back on Herreld’s presidency after a suitable period of time.
But skepticism, which is just a little farther to the negative side of a continuum from hopeful to despairing, is a proper response for academics, journalists and others to this selection.