AAUP delays decision, commends UNI faculty and president

The delay is good news, faculty leaders said in a statement

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CEDAR FALLS — The American Association of University Professors voted Saturday to delay a decision on possible sanction or censure against the University of Northern Iowa until 2014.

The organization also commended new UNI President Bill Ruud and faculty leaders for their willingness to work together to address campus issues that arose after budget cuts last spring.

"The administration and the faculty have reported additional progress in recent months to improve academic governance at UNI. As a result, chapter and faculty senate leaders have stated their support for deferring any censure consideration until the 2014 annual meeting, in order to allow time for UNI, under its new administration, to address outstanding issues," an AAUP statement said.

Ruud, who took the helm at UNI about two weeks ago after former President Ben Allen retired, said in a statement he appreciates the AAUP delay.

"I appreciate the support of the faculty organizations in encouraging AAUP to delay their recommendation," he said. "I look forward to continuing positive dialogue with all faculty, staff and students at UNI."

The delay is good news, and in the past year, there have been more steps toward participatory and transparent decision making, faculty leaders said in the UNI statement.

"We’ve made good progress this year and continue to have positive conversations," said Jeffrey Funderburk, a music professor and university faculty chair. "We look forward to the new administration addressing remaining issues."

The AAUP vote to delay any action based upon a January report by its investigating committee came Saturday at the group’s annual meeting. The investigating committee’s report in January, which came about after program closures and budget cuts at UNI last spring, concluded that actions by the UNI administration in cutting programs and some positions violated basic standards of academic freedom, tenure and governance.

Those findings were disputed by former President Allen, who said the report was an attempt to intimidate the university. Allen also took issue with the idea that offering severance packages was a coercive action on the university’s part.

After Ruud’s appointment by the state Board of Regents several months ago, he expressed interest in addressing the prospective AAUP censure and engaged UNI’s United Faculty union, faculty leaders and AAUP national staff in discussions about the issues raised by the investigating committee, the AAUP statement said.

In March, the AAUP chapter and the board of regents reached settlements in the cases of faculty members who had been discharged as a result of the program closures, allowing affected faculty to rescind their retirement agreements and return to their tenured appointments, the statement said.

AAUP officials will monitor events at UNI in the coming year and report back at the 2014 annual meeting. Censure by AAUP "informs the academic community that the administration of an institution has not adhered to generally recognized principles of academic freedom and tenure," according to the organization. The AAUP did vote to place two schools on the censure list Saturday, bringing the total number on the list to 52.

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