University of Northern Iowa administrators violated governance, academic freedom and tenure procedures when they eliminated academic programs and shuttered the laboratory school, according to a new American Association of University Professors report.
The report found that the university had “no legitimate basis, financial or otherwise,” to terminate faculty appointments, failed to follow their own and Iowa Board of Regents curricular policies when determining which programs to eliminate and essentially “coerced” tenured faculty into accepting an early retirement package they were already entitled to according to AAUP principles.
The AAUP launched its investigation earlier this year after faculty members contacted them about the cuts. An investigation team visited the school in May where they interviewed several dozen faculty members, including Faculty Senate and United Faculty union leaders. The team also spent 90 minutes with UNI President Ben Allen, Provost Gloria Gibson, Associate Provost Virginia Arthur and Robert Donley, the Regents executive director.
“In sum, the investigating committee left UNI with the distinct impression of insecure conditions for academic freedom and shared governance,” the report, which was signed by four members of the investigating committee, stated.
AAUP representatives have said the findings of this report could lead to a vote to impose formal censure on the university. That vote, if it occurs, would not happen until the AAUP’s June 2013 meeting.
Allen, in a prepared response to the report, said he disagreed with the findings.
“It appears the release of this report now is yet another attempt to intimidate the university,” he wrote.
Allen said the university responded to specific allegations in October and had asked for their response to be included in the report, a request he said was “largely ignored.”
Some of the key concerns about the draft report include the mischaracterization of relevant university policies and agreements, and the process used to define program areas and identify programs for reduction or restructuring. Allen also said the committee misunderstood the severity of the university’s financial emergency.
Allen also took issue with the idea that offering severance packages was a coercive action.
“The draft report acknowledges the critical fact that the University did not lay off any faculty members as a result of program closures or restructuring,” Allen wrote in his response. “Nonetheless, the committee condemns the University’s conduct as inconsistent with AAUP standards and academic custom and procedures.”