Confidential Document Shows AIB Misled Public Over Merger

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- It's the document AIB College of Business does not want you to see. The minutes of the January 14 Board of Trustees meeting, where board members discussed the planned merger with the University of Iowa. The document shows a lot of what the public and students were told about the merger simply isn't true.

During a Monday press conference, AIB President Nancy Williams said she first talked with U of I President Sally Mason about the merger last summer.  "The idea for this merger stemmed from a casual conversation with President Mason this summer," Williams said.

But according to the confidential documents we obtained, that's not true.  The idea of merging AIB with another schools has been in the works for years.   Earlier this month Williams reminded the board, "In 2010 the board wanted us to look at succession planning," and that she had "Paid a call to Larry Zimpleman, chair of the Drake Board, and said that we were looking. He didn't seem interested."

During the press conference, Williams assured us that the school is in good financial shape, and this gift to the University of Iowa is just the evolution of AIB.   "AIB College of Business is not seeking any kind of financial relief. In fact the college is virtually debt free," Williams said.

But the meeting minutes say the college is $1.4 million in debt and, in terms of endowments, AIB is down to "$4m by the end of Aug. 15. $2m. We would have 2.5 years of cash to fund things."

AIB is currently at about half of its enrollment capacity level.  Still, Williams says enrollment is strong.  "Our enrollment has actually been going up at a time when others have potentially been going down," she said at the Monday press conference.

But she told the board, "Recruiting is hard and will get harder with the funding formula. DMACC is our biggest competition and they're more affordable and now the president wants community college to be free."

Board of trustees member Sheila Tipton seemed confused by the proposed merger, according to the minutes, saying "The last time we met was to have a three year plan to go forward and right the ship. What happened? Are financials so bad?"

We've also asked Williams about student athletics. She said the school hasn't had that conversation yet.  "The sports program, we have not figured that out yet," she told reporters.

But that's not true either. The board discussed it at its January 14 meeting saying athletics "Would be phased out right away. You'd find out quickly. 300 student athletes, not all are on the court or the field...If they want to do their sport they could apply someplace else."

That leaves student athletes like Brennen Flores disappointed.  "I just want answers," Flores says, "I want to know why they weren't up front with us. We're a business school and so I'm assuming it was a business related decision to lie to us. And I just don't see how that would make sense."

The AIB Board of trustees also discussed the importance of keeping this plan from the Iowa Board of Regents saying "PW (President Williams) went to visit with Sally (Mason) and stressed the confidentiality of it," and that giving AIB to the University of Iowa instead of selling it, "Allows Sally to get it through the Regents"

During the press conference, President Mason also stressed the importance of keeping students and the public up to date every step of the way during the merger.  "We share your commitment to being inclusive and transparent throughout the process. This is important for all of us and is certainly most important to our students," Mason told reporters.

But, according to the document, the board's discussion has to remain "Confidential. No one talking about this outside of this room. We need to work on what the message will be early. If it gets out and we're not in control it won't be good."

We did call a spokeswoman for AIB to get her take on this. She hung up on us. So we went above her head, and called AIB President Nancy Williams on her cell phone. She said she will not comment on the documents because she says they were stolen from the college and because the contents were supposed to be confidential. She does say AIB plans to release more information next week.

We also reached out to University of Iowa President Sally Mason. We were told she wasn't in town, and her spokeswoman did not return our calls for comment. What we wanted to know is, why does the taxpayer subsidized University of Iowa want to take over AIB, when even AIB trustees seem to acknowledge the school is a sinking ship?

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