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Academic Perspective: Board President David Miles and Regent Bonnie Campbell

posted on September 19, 2008

Yepsen: School is back in session in Iowa City, Ames and Cedar Falls at the University of Iowa, Iowa State and the University of Northern Iowa. We get perspective on the new academic year from the Iowa Board of Regents. Regent Bonnie Campbell and Board President David Miles on this edition of Iowa Press.

Funding for Iowa Press was provided by Friends, the Iowa Public Television Foundation. The Iowa Bankers Association, for personal, business and commercial needs Iowa banks help Iowans reach their financial goals.

On statewide Iowa Public Television this is the Friday, September 19th edition of Iowa Press. Here is David Yepsen.

Yepsen: Tuition policy, faculty retention, maintenance and management of academic affairs, staff and faculty salaries, add to that as well student safety. Those are but a few of the policy issues that confront the Iowa Board of Regents on a daily basis. It's a full plate and with the 2008-2009 academic year heading into its second month we get assessments from two prominent members of the Iowa Board of Regents. Joining us are David Miles, President of the Iowa Board and Regents member Bonnie Campbell. Thank you both for being with us today, we appreciate you coming back.

Miles: Thank you.

Campbell: Thank you.

Yepsen: Also joining us at the Iowa Press table, Kay Henderson, News Director with Radio Iowa and Jeneane Beck, Iowa Statehouse Reporter with Iowa Public Radio.

Beck: You've had a day now to digest the consultant's report concerning the alleged sexual assault on the University of Iowa campus and the university's handling of that reported assault. Do you know yet what your policy will be, what you will do to handle that? Will anybody be requested to resign or leave because of this?

Miles: Let me take the first part. We don't yet know what the policies are but I think there are a number of sound recommendations in the report. The report was well done, thoroughly prepared. I haven't had a chance to read it from cover to cover, it's been almost nonstop meetings. But clearly the system didn't work the way that it should have, the rules are overly complex and we didn't have the kind of response that we need to. So, our intention is to bring everyone together on September 25th at 9:00 and we will take some actions then.

Beck: But, Mrs. Campbell, there were some questions of whether there were a couple of people within the University of Iowa system that maybe didn't try to cover anything up but maybe didn't handle things as well as they should have, didn't advocate for the student as well as they should have. Will you make any recommendations to Sally Mason to let anyone go?

Campbell: We all have to absorb the report and for me that means looking very critically at who knew what and when and who did what. And I think the report was complete and good, solid. We have asked President Mason to absorb it as well and get back to us. I need to really ponder it and discuss it with the fellow board members. But one thing I can say with absolute certainty when things go wrong they need to be fixed, we'll do that and really try to take advantage of the opportunity we have to put in place the best practices in the country. Things did go wrong if you glanced at the report. Our investigator described it as the perfect storm and it was disappointing.

Henderson: Mr. Miles, to Iowans who are not familiar with the intricacies of life on a campus it might occur to them why are we at this point anyway. If someone has a sexual assault occur to them at Principal Financial Group in downtown Des Moines the police are involved. So, how did we get to this point?

Miles: Well, first of all I would probably challenge the assumption, and Regent Campbell would know more about this than I would, but I think often the police are not involved. The difference between it happening to someone who was on a campus and not is that there is a campus community there and we have an obligation to educate our students but also to provide a safe and secure environment. And so often when something like this happens it is reported within the university which is exactly what happened here and then we need to be able to come in and support both the alleged victim and any other students that are involved with it and that ends up creating a little different situation than if you're not part of an academic community such as ours.

Henderson: Mrs. Campbell addressed this question and some of our viewers may know that you used to work in the U.S. Department of Justice in the office that deals with these very issues.

Campbell: Your question is a very good question, it is perhaps the crux of the issue is how much latitude to give a victim in the general society with respect to prosecutions and reporting, that sort of thing. One thing, setting aside that I can not resolve that, there is a very strongly held view among advocates, the people who know best how to deal with victims, that mandatory reporting is not a good thing and indeed federal funding streams can be lost if you require mandatory reporting so we don't do it anywhere. On campus though it can be said that a crime of this level of violence should never have been treated informally which is what happened in this instance.

Beck: You today described for legislators the policies at the University of Iowa as absolutely ridiculous and said they must be changed. Are they equally ridiculous at the other universities? Is this a problem you're going to see across all three state schools? Or is this only at the University of Iowa?

Campbell: I can't speak to the others because I haven't seen them yet. I also mentioned that the Office on Violence Against Women has given a grant to the University of Northern Iowa to develop best practices for campus sexual assault. So, I suspect UNI's policies are different. I think we need to coordinate these policies across the public university campuses so that then we all have an opportunity to be on the same page. And that is what we'll be working towards.

Beck: So, you will look at all three schools as you kind of go forward with this consultant's report?

Campbell: Yes. And the other thing I said was that I asked President Mason how did this set of peculiar policies arise and she said, well, it was done by committee and as democratic, little d decmoratic as I am, sometimes committees don't work and this is one example.

Henderson: Legislators this week have raised some concerns about the price tag associated with this second review. Mr. Miles, can you defend the price tag?

Miles: We needed to have an independent investigation of this. It was clear on the first pass once the two letters from the mother appeared it was clear that we had not gotten the full story and we needed to and we needed to give confidence to Iowans that it was an independent report and the investigators could go wherever the evidence took them. We also needed someone who is expert at this and that doesn't come inexpensively. As much as I would have liked to have avoided the expense we think it was an investment that was worthwhile for the citizens of Iowa.

Beck: Will you need a consultant to help you now drafting policies or is that something you can do at either the Regents level or the individual university level especially with your background?

Campbell: I am a volunteer, I have to keep reminding people. I think we do need expertise. I can't speak for Sally Mason. If it were my choice I would recognize a need to do this very, very swiftly so that there is no lingering question about who does what when and how and I'd probably hire outside experts to do it.

Henderson: What about the question among some people's minds that this case was different and handled differently because the victim and the alleged attackers were athletes?

Miles: I have not heard any indication and there certainly was nothing I saw on the report that indicates that this was handled differently because they were athletes other than the student athlete who was the alleged victim initially went to individuals that she knew in the Athletic Department to say that this had happened and looked for their assistance. And, again, from what the report indicates wanted it resolved to the extent that it could be in that circle. So, in that sense you might say it was different but each and every one of them is different, they are unique.

Yepsen: We ask you about people getting dismissed and you say you want to take a look at reprimands. At some point do you say some people acted properly? It looks to me from looking at the report that Kirk Ferentz did well, did fine and yet he gets this black mark on his record. At some point where do these administrators go to get their reputations back?

Campbell: Well, that, David, is another reason for the expenditure that was made to do this independent review. I don't think anyone would accuse me of having a bias in favor of the athletics department. I don't know a football from a basketball, well that's an exaggeration, but that's a very valid point. We had to have an independent look at this. I think this report spoke very clearly to individuals and the athletics department came out looking pretty darn good, you're absolutely right.

Yepsen: I want to ask a bigger picture question. It seems to me this episode is just the latest in a string of bad things that have happened in Iowa City to the University of Iowa. You go back to the Pierre Pierce case, you go to the floods, it just seems like the institution is constantly roiled by some controversy. President Miles, what is the morale like down there? Are administrators focused on educating our children or are they busy playing defense here?

Miles: I think they're very much focused on educating our children and I certainly hope you haven't seen a causal relationship between the floods and some of the other things that you mentioned, I don't think there is one. Coming out of the flood there was such a great coming together of the community and people stepped forward and worked hard. I think the morale is really very strong. Within ten days we were open again for summer classes. We opened in the fall with all of our classes fully functional. Do we have an issue here we need to deal with? Yes. But I think we have a very strong community, faculty, staff, administration in Iowa City and they are prepared to move forward.

Yepsen: Is that your sense as well that they're not distracted by all these things?

Campbell: Well, they take time and effort but I do think that we all do our level best to keep our eye on the ball which is educating students who are ready to go into a global economy. I've never been on a board where there weren't serious challenges. And there are serious challenges confronting all of our state universities.

Yepsen: But you do agree that what has happened to Iowa City in the course of the last few years is almost unprecedent. I'm an alum. I can't recall a time when there have been this many things one after another, it always seems there is some turmoil in Iowa City.

Campbell: The flood was by far the most significant thing that happened.

Beck: There's the controversy over the new president, there are other things that were controversial and the flood wasn't controversial.

Campbell: No, I wouldn't quarrel with that at all. My own view is that we recognize that. We moved pretty quickly to identify this problem and we will move quickly to fix it, change it and turn it around so we can go forward.

Miles: I was just going to focus on the floods. Nothing equivalent to the floods has ever happened in the University of Iowa's history. So, when you throw that into the mix it has been an extraordinarily difficult time. There is a lot more work yet to come. There is a lot more assessment and then repair and renewal that needs to happen. But I would go back to what I said earlier, I think in many ways this has brought the community together and that is a real opportunity.

Beck: You talk about assessment, the initial assessment is maybe $25 million in uncovered flood losses on campus. Where will that money come from? How will the campus rebuild?

Miles: I'm not sure that we're ready to -- I'm not ready to address that yet. The order will be initially from the insurer and I applaud the folks that had the foresight in 1993 to go out and get flood insurance, that's going to make a huge difference for Iowans right now and then national flood insurance and then FEMA and then we'll go to the university's resources and then we'll start to look at what do we need from the state. Right now we have an estimate of $230 million overall but there's so much that needs to be determined yet. I think it's just a little too early to make assessments of that.

Yepsen: I mentioned earlier the founders of this state opted to build a state university in a flood plain for better or worse and we're getting bigger floods and more of them. Can you give the people of Iowa some assurance that as you rebuild that campus you're going to harden some of those assets down there so we'll see some flood walls and some retaining walls and some things so that we're not constantly having to pay to fix the Union, to fix Hancher Auditorium? What assurance do you give the taxpayers that you’re going to fix it right this time?

Miles: I think that we can say that we're going to approach it much more thoughtfully, well let's say very thoughtfully and won't compare it to the past but one of the challenges is what used to be considered a 100 year flood seems to be coming much more frequently and I would tell you that there is a great sensitivity to that on campus. So, where we have assets in place that make sense to maintain and fortify around we will do that. But it wouldn't surprise me at all if we end up moving some assets as well. Some of the buildings will be rebuilt, some will not. We went through a process Thursday of beginning to talk about that and we've asked the university to keep us apprised of what their thinking is, come to us if they think a building should be rebuilt, should not be rebuilt and obviously we will make those decisions and we are very sensitive to the environmental issues.

Henderson: The University of Iowa isn't the only campus that has a portion of it on a flood plain. Iowa State University has an area that is on a flood plain as well. Are you thinking out of the box and sort of trying to step back and address those assets that are in the flood plain as well at this time?

Miles: It's an excellent point and I have to say that we've been more focused on the University of Iowa because of the recent circumstances. Ames was largely spared, not all of Ames, but Iowa State was and while Waterloo sent people to UNI for shelter during some of their issues all of them are near water and we need to be concerned about all of them.

Henderson: During the course of the past few months someone raised the idea of a painting that is very valuable that is at the University of Iowa and the question was sell or not sell. Mrs. Campbell, what do you believe should be done with some of these extraordinarily valuable assets at the university at a time when the university does need to raise some funds?

Campbell: I think the question was not presented as to sell or not sell any particular valuable piece of art but rather to know its value and I think that's a very good idea. My own opinion is I would only want to have that presented to me as a very last resort.

Beck: As we look at this upcoming legislative session the Governor has asked you to prepare zero growth budgets or at least most state agencies. What will you ask lawmakers for in the upcoming session?

Miles: The budget that was just approved yesterday I believe, I'd have to get the number right, I think it's about $790 million all together and we went through that process, each of the universities indicated what they need simply to maintain their core mission and then areas of excellence that they wanted to focus on and it's about that number, we can get the exact number.

Beck: Do you know how much that is over the current budget year?

Miles: It is, I believe, 5.6% of an increase.

Yepsen: Can you justify that in a time, in hard economic times like this? The Governor is very worried, your friend the Governor and the guy who appointed you, is very worried that the state budget is going to dry up, that at some point the tax revenues are going to shrink and he really doesn't need to have this happen in about 2010 when he's up for re-election.

Miles: And we are concerned about the tax revenues for the state of Iowa and whether those will continue strong and we also want to make sure that we are mindful of the resources. We have an obligation not only for oversight but to make sure that we make these universities and our special schools the best that we possibly can and provide the best education and our assessment this is where we should start. If we need to put a shoulder to the wheel, if we need to contribute if times get difficult we will do that and we made that clear with all of our institutions and they're on board with that as well. So, we start from a position of saying let's make these the kind of institutions that folks in Iowa want them to be and then if we have to do some things because of more challenging times we'll be there.

Yepsen: Are there other needs. Mrs. Campbell, that the Regents are going to be asking the Governor and the legislature for besides money?

Campbell: Well, we feel very grateful that we've had, especially last year with Governor Culver, a wonderful support from both the Governor and the state legislature. I appreciated their assistance with the oversight hearing today. I think having legislative leadership and the members engaged with Regents activity is a very good thing. I don't know that we have specific needs beyond our budget but stay tuned.

Henderson: One of the things the Board of Regents does is set the level of tuition for students. It appears that despite the rising cost of tuition a growing share of Iowa students and students from elsewhere are enrolling, you saw enrollment figures that were record in some respects. What sort of decision on tuition will you make for the next year, Mr. Miles?

Miles: Well, we haven't made it yet, we'll make it in October. First of all, again, thanks to the legislature and the Governor we had the lowest tuition increase in 27 years last year which we're very pleased about. But we need to look at it fresh this year. We know that there has been inflation, inflation in energy costs, inflation in food costs, we know that affects the families and the students that attend our university and we don't want to increase their burden but it also increases the cost to us of delivering that service. So, we're right in the process right now of analyzing that. It won't be a nickel more than we think it actually has to be but I can't really give you a number until we get a little closer to it.

Yepsen: In the past one of the reasons the universities got into trouble is because they didn't keep raising tuition to stay competitive with something called the higher education price index, it's the rate of inflation for universities. I believe last year you were below that forecast.

Miles: No, we were at the low level. There was discussion, you're exactly right, and there was discussion about can we forego one all together, could it be less than 3.2% which is the low end of HEPI and the decision was, which I fully supported, we will put it at the low end because the legislature has been very supportive but it would be inappropriate to go even below that level, there's a low, medium and high, it would be inappropriate to go there because then we just might be setting ourselves up for a higher price increase later.

Yepsen: Is that your attitude going into this next tuition?

Miles: Yes, I think it's a pretty good summary of our attitude now as well.

Henderson: Public policy makers in Iowa have been focused primarily on raising the salaries of K-12 teachers. What about the salaries of the faculty members at the three institutions, Mrs. Campbell? Adequate, in need of huge remediation?

Campbell: I'm not sure I know the answer to that. We actually have asked for information about benefits packages and so forth so that, you know the university faculties are always going to say they're underpaid, I don't have any way to evaluate that unless I know what their total compensation package is and we've asked for that information at this meeting and hope to have it soon. I speculate we're somewhere in the middle because we do attract good faculty and we retain them, I think.

Yepsen: How big a problem is it to the state universities the phenomenon of more and more students going to the community colleges for a couple of years before they transfer? Is that something you're supportive of or is that something that is causing you financial problems?

Campbell: I'm very supportive of it. I, myself, started at DMACC and I think it's a wonderful entry into a four-year college degree. The institutions are supportive of it. I know Iowa has a two plus two program and there are a number of agreements among and between the community colleges and the Regent institutions. So, I haven't encountered anyone yet who doesn't appreciate that we're getting those students and that they're staying in the university system once they get there.

Beck: Mr. Miles, are you at all concerned about the economic downturn it appears the country is suffering and whether that will impact whether it be endowments, fundraising efforts on behalf of the universities or even in a couple of years whether it affects student's abilities to go to school?

Miles: All of the above. We're facing unprecedented challenges in terms of our nation's finances and so far Iowa has seemed to be somewhat of an island and stayed strong and I hope that we continue to but we can't operate in isolation. And so I'm very concerned about that and we need to have contingency plans if things worsen, we're going to continue to move forward but we're thinking about those things.

Beck: Is there any old studies or sort of numbers that would say in past recessions whether enrollment actually possibly went up because some students that might have gone out of state suddenly stay home to go to school? Or do you lose students when the economy turns bad? Or do you know?

Campbell: The only observation that I have made based on communications with the institutions is that enrollments in community colleges are up and then many of those people move, I don't know specifically whether there are older data we might look at.

Henderson: In 1994 Bonnie Campbell was the Democratic Party's nominee for Governor. And then this past cycle for the Iowa caucuses you were a keen supporter of Hillary Clinton. What do you think of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin?

Campbell: Well, I don't know exactly what to think of the very positive response to her because I'm not a Republican and I'm not supporting her. But let me say that from the perspective of a feminist to have clearly a strong, individualist pioneering woman on the Republican ticket is historic with or without my support of her.

Yepsen: One of the reasons --we're into politics, we always do that on this show -- one of the reasons John McCain picked her was in an effort to attract Hillary Clinton supporters. Now, as one of the leading Hillary Clinton supporters in Iowa did he succeed?

Campbell: Well, not with me.

Yepsen: I know, but do you see Clinton people now going over to McCain-Palin as a result of that decision?

Campbell: I don't and I keep looking at polling data that suggests that white women are supporting McCain. My theory about what's happening, I'm not a pollster as you know, is that those are probably independents who made choices based on other things. But to imagine, for me to imagine that philosophically people who supported Hillary Clinton because of her experience and her background and her political perspective would support someone who is ideologically the opposite seems a huge stretch.

Yepsen: We have about 20 seconds left. Is Barack Obama going to be able to carry this state?

Campbell: Yes, significantly.

Yepsen: Why do you say that?

Campbell: We know him, it reminds me of 1988, that was mentioned earlier. I just think that Iowa seems to like him and we're well organized, we've registered more Democrats, it ought to be a very good year and we could determine the presidency.

Yepsen: Thank you both. We're out of time. We'll have you back to talk more politics sometime. Thanks for being with us. That's it for this weekend's edition of Iowa Press. We return next weekend at our regular airtimes, Friday at 7:30pm and Sunday morning at 11:30. I hope you'll be joining us. Until then, I've David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register. Thanks for being with us here on statewide Iowa Public Television.

Funding for Iowa Press was provided by Friends, the Iowa Public Television Foundation. The Iowa Bankers Association, for personal, business and commercial needs Iowa banks help Iowans reach their financial goals.


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