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Today in the American Meritocracy



I alluded to this earlier, but the new hire to be president of the University of Iowa is amazing:

On the résumé Harreld submitted to the regents, he listed his current job as the managing principal for the Colorado-based Executing Strategy, LLC. This company “confidentially (advises) several public, private and military organizations on leadership, organic growth and strategic renewal.” However, that business doesn’t exist. The Colorado secretary of state has no record of a company of that name.


His résumé also neglected to list the co-authors on his publications, attributing them solely to Harreld. The only part of his résumé that didn’t contain a glaring error was Page 3, which consisted almost entirely of personal information such as “Four adult children who all have advanced degrees” and “Elder, Presbyterian Church.” Given Harreld’s business background, one would think he would have taken more care with his résumé when applying to be the president of a major university.

Harreld’s public forum did not go well, to put it mildly. His rambling 35-minute presentation contained little more than vague generalizations and repeated catchphrases such as taking UI from “great to greater.” At times he rolled his eyes and looked exasperated while facing questions from students, staff, and faculty. When a UI staff member asked him what initiatives he might have planned to improve workplace morale, he replied, “I don’t know that I have any. Now what? Staff? I dunno. … What more would you like me to say?” Harreld then ended this exchange with an abrupt, “No, I’m done. OK? If you don’t mind.”

When he was challenged by a UI alum on a fact that he got wrong about the university, he admitted that he got the incorrect information from Wikipedia—hardly the professional research you’d expect from a potential university president. And when asked about former UI president Mason’s six-point plan to curb sexual violence on campus, he replied, “I read the six-point plan. I can’t remember all six points. Shame on me. I have a two-letter plan. N-O.”

Less than 3 percent of students, staff, and faculty who were polled by the UI chapter of the American Association of University Professors believed that Harreld was qualified to be president after watching his public forum. There were three other finalists: Oberlin President Marvin Krislov, Tulane University Provost Michael Bernstein, and Ohio State University Provost Joseph Steinmetz. More than 90 percent of respondents view each of them as qualified.

If Iowa was hiring a new assistant to the president, finding out that they had erroneous information on a cv would almost certainly be immediately disqualifying, and they would presumably expected to have some actual qualifications for the position. But the top of the food chain was a different matter. Cv fudging, the lack of relevant credentials — none of this should get in the way of someone who will move your cheese paradigms in the most proactively disruptive and strategically dynamic way possible. The cream rises to the top!

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