- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Protesters disrupted the Iowa Board of Regents meeting Wednesday to demand an end to a consultant’s $2.5 million review that’s expected to lead to major changes at the state’s three public universities.

Four University of Iowa graduate students interrupted a board meeting at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City by loudly chanting, “Ditch Deloitte. Stop the audit.”

The chants referred to the regents’ decision last month to hire Deloitte Consulting LLP to study all aspects of the universities and recommend ways to cut costs and increase revenue. Board President Bruce Rastetter has said the review is expected to be broader and more significant than one conducted in the late 1980s that saved millions of dollars, led to some programs being closed and sparked campus protests.

The consultants are just beginning their work, but their recommendations could lead to closing inefficient programs, selling off some public assets and sharing some services across the universities. Regents say they expect to find millions in savings, which will then be invested back into other priority areas.

“We’re not taking money from the universities. We’re out there repurposing for the mission, and that’s what this is all about,” said Regent Larry McKibben, who is chairing a committee overseeing the review. He said the savings would help ensure the universities survive and thrive.

After refusing to stop their chants, the protesters were escorted out of the building by campus security officials. They won’t face criminal charges but could face discipline by the dean of students, said Chuck Green, a University of Iowa administrator in charge of security.

The protests were a surprise to Rastetter and university leaders, who said they did not know the consultant’s hiring had already prompted dissent.

Rastetter and McKibben promised an open review that would take input from students and employees.

Deloitte workers have started meeting with regents and the board’s staff to plan the review and will soon spend a full week on each campus, starting March 24 at Iowa State University and then the University of Iowa and Northern Iowa the following weeks. The consultants will start their work with a public forum on each campus that will be led by university presidents.

Rastetter said all proposals will be made public well in advance before the regents take any votes to implement them.

“This will be a bottom-up approach and everyone will be engaged and involved,” he said.

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