Bill Ruud leaves UNI
UNI president: Ohio college recruited me
Supporters don't want a repeat of the controversial UI presidential search
By Vanessa Miller, The Gazette
University of Northern Iowa President Bill Ruud said Thursday he was 'recruited hard' by Marietta College in Ohio and eventually became convinced the move was a 'great next stop' for him.
'They reached out to me, they recruited me,' he said in an interview with The Gazette. 'I went down there and discovered it's a great fit and a great opportunity. But I do have mixed emotions about leaving Iowa.' Officials in Iowa and Ohio announced Wednesday that Ruud, 63, will leave UNI to become president of the small private college in Ohio, which has an enrollment of about 1,200. His departure comes just three years after he was hired to lead UNI, which boasts an enrollment of almost 12,000.
CONTRACTS NOT ISSUE
Upon his arrival in 2013, the Board of Regents gave Ruud a three-year contract and offered him annual raises, including a salary bump of 2.5 percent in August, moving him from $348,400 to $357,110. But the board didn't extend his contract, which expires June 1. That fueled questions about whether he was encouraged to leave.
'Contracts had nothing to do with it,' he told The Gazette. 'It was an opportunity that was presented to me at another great university.'
PRIVATE COLLEGE APPEAL
Ruud said he won't disclose his salary at the private institution. And, he said, the fact that Marietta is private is part of the appeal.
'I've spent my career in public higher education, and the opportunity to do some of the same things that have been successful in the public realm and move them into the private is kind of exciting,' he said.
Ruud said he wasn't motivated to leave by challenges in obtaining adequate state funding. The regents, for the upcoming budget year, requested an increase in appropriations of more than $20 million for the three public universities, Instead, the universities will receive a combined $6.3 million more.
Although the $2.8 million extra UNI got was far less than requested, it marked the second straight year it received a larger increase than the University of Iowa or Iowa State University.
Ruud starts his new job July 3 in Marietta.
A DIFFERENT SEARCH
State Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Waterloo, said the search to replace Ruud cannot unfold like the recent search for a new UI president.
'My message to the board is that cannot happen at UNI,' Danielson said. 'We have been through enough.' In hiring UI President Bruce Harreld last fall, the regents employed a search firm, involved a diverse and faculty rich search committee and publicly introduced four finalists to solicit feedback.
Despite widespread criticism of Harreld's candidacy, the board voted unanimously to hire him - sparking protests, faculty and student votes of no confidence and an inquiry by the American Association of University Professors. In the days after Harreld's hire, news media reports revealed previously undisclosed meetings between Harreld and regents, search committee members and an interim UI president.
When asked about the process of replacing Ruud, regents spokesman Josh Lehman said 'no determination has been made on the search process.' The board will name an interim president at its June meeting.
Danielson and other UNI constituents said Ruud's announcement was surprising and disappointing because he was hired after a contentious and chaotic time on the UNI campus involving cutbacks.
Joe Gorton, UNI associate professor of sociology, anthropology and criminology and president of UNI's United Faculty union and AAUP chapter, said he thinks Ruud was driven out.
'I presume they asked him to leave - he's going to a school that's smaller by a factor of 10,' Gorton said. 'I think President Ruud really enjoyed being at UNI. I think he was really committed to the university. I never had the slightest hint that he had any interest in not being here. So I just find it almost impossible to believe that this was a completely voluntary choice on his part.'
SUPPORT FOR RUUD
Gorton expressed those concerns to his UNI colleagues Thursday in an email. 'It was his ability to work with us in good faith that led (United Faculty) to withdraw our request for an AAUP censure of UNI,' Gorton wrote.
In 2012 - before Ruud took over - the AAUP launched an investigation of the campus and potential violations of its requirements for faculty consultation about academic programs.
Last December, the national association returned to Iowa to investigate the regents for their handling of the UI presidential search. The association found the board acted 'in bad faith.' Based on that, the AAUP could vote next month to censure the regents. Gorton said that should inform the UNI search. 'It is vital that our search for a new UNI president be completely open and it include truly meaningful faculty involvement,' he wrote.