Krislov Loses Presidency Bid at Iowa

Tyler Sloan, Editor in Chief

The University of Iowa announced that Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov will not serve as the institution’s 21st president on Thursday afternoon. The university instead selected former IBM executive J. Bruce Harreld in what has been called a controversial move, as Harreld has no previous experience working on the administrative side of higher education.

“I consider it an honor to serve as the President of Oberlin College, and I look forward to continuing my work here,” Krislov said in an email to the Review following the announcement.

The decision came after the top four finalists traveled to the university’s campus for a series of convocations on Aug. 27, Aug. 28, Aug. 31 and Sept. 1. Harreld beat out nominees Tulane University Provost Michael Bernstein, Ohio State University Provost Joseph Steinmetz and Krislov for the position.

Only 1.8 percent of faculty and 2.6 percent of other respondents voted that Harreld would be qualified for the position prior to the university’s announcement, according to a poll conducted by the University of Iowa Chapter of American Association of University Professors. The low numbers were in sharp contrast to the 90 percent who believed that Krislov, Bernstein and Steinmetz were all qualified to serve as president.

But the Iowa Board of Regents, the committee charged with selecting the new president, clearly had a different impression. The Board voted for Harreld unanimously, despite his lack of experience.

“I will be the first to admit that my unusual background requires a lot of help, a lot of coaching,” Harreld said in a statement to the press at the University of Iowa on Thursday. “My question back to the community is, ‘OK, let’s prioritize [the issues] and figure out which ones we’re going to work on right now.’”

Krislov took the opportunity to address cornerstone administrative issues during his visits. He focused his rhetoric on how he believed working at Oberlin for nine years, and previously as the vice president of the University of Michigan for another nine, prepared him to take on a presidency at the University of Iowa.

“In all these settings, I’ve had one goal: to make a difference, to be someone who can bring people together to reach common goals built on shared values,” Krislov said in the opening of his speech to a crowd of nearly 250 people at the University of Iowa on Thursday, Aug. 27.

He added that despite obvious differences in student population size, Iowa and Oberlin share many similar qualities.

“Iowa is an extraordinary place with a deep history of engagement with both the arts and humanities, as well as the sciences,” he said. “The academic reputation and excellence in both fields, as well as a lot of their other interests in access and affordability, are very powerful. I think Iowa and Oberlin actually share a lot of the same values in terms of wanting to be a force of good in the world.”

University of Iowa Chair of Presidential Search Committee and Interim President Jean Robillard led the charge in determining a permanent successor. The search committee, comprised of 21 voting members, consisted of nine faculty members and an assortment of Alumni Association, Staff Council, ex-officio members and others. The group began meeting in February after former President Sally Mason announced her retirement in January. Mason served as the University’s president for eight years.

Krislov has not confirmed whether he will continue to seek employment elsewhere, but stressed that he remains passionate about working at Oberlin and looks forward to continuing his tenure.

“I have had a wonderful set of experiences, and my family and I are very happy at Oberlin,” he said. “If I end up staying at Oberlin for many, many years, that’s all good.”