AAUP, U. of Northern Iowa Spar Over Governance Issues
The University of Northern Iowa is contesting a recently released American Association of University Professors report on affronts to shared governance and tenure policies last academic year in the midst of a budget crisis. The AAUP criticized university administrators for eliminating 20 percent of academic programs and the K-12 laboratory school without full engagement of the faculty -- who are primary curricular decision-makers, according to association recommendations -- and for making some professors involved in those programs feel forced to accept separation packages or risk being laid off.
In a statement, President Benjamin J. Allen said the institution disagrees with the findings of the report, and that “university leadership is obligated to not only consider the best interests of the faculty, but also the taxpayers, staff, alumni, and most importantly our students. The program changes were made up with all those stakeholders in mind.” Allen called the AAUP report mere “opinion," without punitive teeth at this point, and said it mischaracterizes university policies and agreements.
Dan Power, president of the UNI-United Faculty union, called the events of the past year “unprecedented,” and said that collegial, shared governance is in the interest of everyone in the university community going forward. “My hope is that we will resolve the outstanding issues identified in the AAUP Committee A investigation," he said in an email. "We need to work [together] to continue to meet the needs of our students and the people of Iowa.”
The AAUP report followed a May 2012 investigation prompted by faculty complaints, said Michael Bérubé, investigation chair and professor of English at Pennsylvania State University, as well as president of the Modern Language Association. "In the future, we would hope and expect that the UNI administration will involve [the union] and the Faculty Senate at every level of decision making with regard to program closures and/or reductions, because UNI's own handbook gives the faculty primary responsibility over the curriculum," he said in an e-mail.