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University of Iowa Ends Search for Diversity Directors After Candidates Drop Out

The University of Iowa's struggle to find someone to lead its diversity efforts continues, and the campus announced on Thursday that his search will end “after several candidates withdrew or indicated that they would likely withdraw in the wake of President Bruce Harreld's retirement announcement. ”

UI's announcement was unclear on when or if the campus will restart its search for a new associate vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, which has seen rampant turnover since Georgina Dodge left office in 2017 .

She was replaced by two interns before the university hired TaJuan Wilson for the role last summer. He left after just six weeks on the job, according to a settlement agreement that allowed him to continue earning his six-figure salary while seeking another position outside of college, which he eventually found at the University of South Georgia.

Once he resigned, UI's diversity units reported directly to former Provost Montse Fuentes, who this summer resigned under similar conditions, signing an agreement that allows her to continue earning $ 439,000 as a "special assistant to the president" until June 30, 2021.

Harreld later appointed Liz Tovar to serve as Acting Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, while the search for a permanent replacement was launched.

Then, on October 1, Harreld announced plans to retire once a new president starts and catches up on work. Harreld's announcement came three years before his contract expires in 2023 and one year after extending his contract, which comes with a deferred compensation payment of $ 2.33 million if he stays until the end.

"In light of these developments, the search company strongly recommended ending the search," search committee co-chair Tiffini Stevenson Earl said in a statement. “Russell Ganim and I, as co-chairs of the search committee, fully agreed with this guide and passed the recommendation on to the acting chancellor, who also supported the decision.


"Everyone involved believes that this course of action is the best for the university."

Search company Isaacson, Miller, Inc. has been consulting on the process. For his help in finding Wilson, the university paid the consultant $ 103,592, including $ 21,593 for travel and advertising expenses, officials told The Gazette last year.

A contract with the company stipulated that if a UI employee it evaluated and recommended left for any reason other than death or disability, it would reopen the search at no cost, provided it began within three months.

Wilson's resignation prompted a free search, authorities said.

However, after recent candidate withdrawals, Isaacson-Miller advised ending the process, but said, according to UI Strategic Communications, that "withdrawals during a leadership change are not unusual."

"According to the firm, changes in top management often greatly disrupt the search for vacant positions, and what has happened in Iowa is no different than what is happening at other universities around the country," Ganim said in a statement.

Acting Executive Vice President and Chancellor Kevin Kregel praised Tovar's leadership, calling her a strong interim capable of moving the campus forward on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

"In the short time since Dr. Tovar was named interim associate vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, she has already made a significant impact by listening and participating in many parts of the campus," Kregel said in a statement. . “I am grateful for your service and leadership, and I hope you continue in this role.”

Wilson, upon his departure, had questioned the university's diversity, equity, and inclusion reporting structure and whether its associate vice president should report directly to the president instead of the chancellor.


Harreld said in July that while "many campus members expressed the importance of a new AVP for DEI that reports directly to the president rather than the rector, change the job description would mean delaying the search, "according to UI communications.

Such a delay was unacceptable to the campus community and the search committee, he said.

"The university is not without significant challenges related to diversity, equity and inclusion," Kregel said in a statement. "I am confident that Dr. Tovar will help us overcome these challenges, but we must remember that the responsibility to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion belongs to the entire campus community."

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