The ISU chapter of the American Association of University Professors expresses its deep concern for, and strong support of, the faculty and the AAUP chapter at the University of Northern Iowa. We take extremely seriously the recent decision of the national AAUP to undertake a formal investigation of UNI and the possibility of censure for our sister institution. Public and private reports raise the concern that in dealing with the current budget situation, UNI administration may have improperly terminated tenured faculty and/or improperly pressured others to retire. If this is indeed the case, these actions would constitute serious violations of the principles of AAUP, principles that Northern Iowa, Iowa State and the University of Iowa, like most colleges and universities nationwide, have freely and publically promised to uphold.
For 100 years, AAUP principles and policies have provided American colleges and universities with a framework for academic freedom and shared governance within which they have thrived. These principles and policies have helped make the American system of higher education the envy of the world and an engine of creativity and economic development. American society and the state of Iowa have greatly benefited. Without the AAUP principles, our university system could not function. AAUP recognizes and endorses the shared governance responsibilities of faculty. Faculty do much of the work of creating and managing university teaching, research and extension/service programs. Only the faculty have the professional expertise to do this. Shared governance recognizes this role of the faculty and the importance of that work. Appropriate recognition of the faculty responsibilities must be part of the decision making process for an institution of higher education to maintain its academic integrity.
Difficult budget times have placed enormous stress on the Iowa Regents institutions. State support has been cut by 25 percent in the last three years. No institution can be unaffected by cuts of this magnitude. The question is how to respond. Successful institutions of all kinds, both public and private, in business and in government, understand that to survive difficult times, they need the best efforts from all members of the institution. They need creativity, energy, new ideas and new proposals, and they can only get them from individuals who are involved, who care for the institution and who feel that they were included properly in the decision making process. The question is, in difficult times does an institution draw together through shared effort and shared governance or does the institution draw apart by artificially and inappropriately separating faculty from the decision making process?
The success of all three regent universities in Iowa depends on the quality and reputation of the faculty. Northern Iowa, like Iowa and Iowa State, must compete to recruit and retain quality faculty in a national/international market for talent. The best young faculty candidates always have a choice of where they wish to work. Top senior faculty with records of success can leave for more welcoming academic environments. An AAUP censure of Northern Iowa, due to the administration’s failure to follow accepted principles of shared governance, would harm not only that institution’s ability to recruit and retain talented faculty but also disadvantage all of Iowa’s Regents universities in the competition for the best and the brightest. The Regents universities brought in more than $800 million in research funding last year. They also launch thousands of young Iowans into professional careers every year. Destroying or ignoring the principles of shared governance and academic freedom effectively guarantees the decay of higher education in, and a great loss to, the state of Iowa.