Three nominees for the Iowa Board of Regents faced questioning from the Iowa Senate Education Committee, as Senators mull whether to confirm Governor Branstad’s choices for six-year terms on the board.
The nominees are former Republican State Senator Nancy Boettger of Harlan and former Democratic State Representative Nancy Dunkel of Dyersville.
Branstad reappointed Regent Sherry Bates, who has served only a partial term on the board.
With the recent announcement that President Steven Leath will be leaving Iowa State University, senators urged the nominees, if confirmed, to conduct a fully transparent search for his replacement.
Criticism persists for the way the board in 2015 selected business executive Bruce Harreld to lead the University of Iowa.
There was more public input for the recent hire of UNI President Mark Nook.
“The UNI search was a good search,” Bates said. “I think it’s a model I would like to see used for the Iowa State search.”
Sen. Bob Dvorsky (D-Coralville) raised a rumor that outgoing Regents President, agribusinessman Bruce Rastetter, may be a candidate to replace Steven Leath.
“Frankly, in the discussion right now, the rumor in this area, in this building, is that Mr. Rastetter is up for president of Iowa State University,” Dvorsky said. “I think those sorts of rumors need to be squashed.”
Rastetter currently heads the Summit Agriculture Group.
“Mr. Rastetter has a job at Summit and intends to keep it that way,” wrote Regents spokesman John Lehman in a text message.
The three appointees were also questioned about campus safety, rising tuition, and funding issues at the universities.
“Quite frankly, I think that the board and our university presidents have not done an adequate job of making the case here, in this building down here with the Legislature, about state appropriations,” said Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City).
“We have tasked our state resource officers to lobby on our behalf,” Bates said. “Within the board, we have worked hard at looking at other avenues.”
“One way certainly to keep costs down is to assist students to get through in four years’ time,” Boettger said.
The Senate faces an April 15th deadline to confirm or deny the appointments.
Rep. Dunkel vowed to be a good listener if she’s confirmed.
“Two ears, one mouth,” Dunkel said. “Mom always taught us use them in that proportion.”